The South Coast Wilderness, 22,000 acres of open preserve close to Laguna Beach, is growing exponentially with visitors. Last year alone saw almost half a million hikers and mountain bikers. The Laguna Canyon Foundation, while admitting that much of the trails are less than gorgeous, has asked that all visitors respect the habitat. The foundation held a forum recently in which Hallie Jones, the foundation’s executive director, asked for more cooperation from hikers and cyclists that visit the area.
Jones pleaded with mountain bikers to stop cutting their own trails through the preserve, saying that the habitat they love to ride in won’t be worth much if the illegal trail blazing continues. “You’ll have this once-beautiful canyon and now it’s crisscrossed with trails and doesn’t provide the same value as a habitat as it used to,” Jones warns mountain bikers before the official Laguna Canyon Foundation’s forum. The “outlaw” mentality adopted by many mountain bikers “hasn’t gotten us very far,” she claims. “Sometimes I want to go home and cry I’m so frustrated,” she said about the declining state of the Laguna Canyon area.
The county officials are considering limiting visitor access to specific week days as a possible solution, but for now, all they can do is ask that everyone stay on the designated trails. In the past, all of the work around these trails has been done on a volunteer basis, but last fall, the Laguna Canyon Foundation hired its first team of professional trail managers.
Jones and the Laguna Canyon Foundation have agreed that “an important part…is making sure you’re giving people the experience they’re looking for, whether they’re hikers or bikers. When you do that, you’re going to get more compliance with people to stay on the authorized trails. They’ll feel satisfied without trampling the habitat.”
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