By Mary Benson
Sunday, March 30th in Chatsworth Mayor Garcetti accompanied by Council members Mitch Englander, Tom LaBonge and Nury Martinez rode off into the afternoon sun along trails in Chatsworth to experience first hand both the rewards and challenges of keeping horses and getting access to trails in the urban environment. Grayce Liu, Empower LA’s General Manager took a few hours of time away from the day’s cycle of Neighborhood Council Elections to join the group.
The ride was organized by Local Chatsworth Corral 54 and Los Angeles Equestrian Advisory Committee (LAEAC) member, Mary Kaufman. Other members of the LAEAC were President, Dale Gibson, Mary Benson, Larry Watts and Scott Perez. Scott is a professional movie outfitter and provided many of the mounts for those that needed a horse including Councilmembers LaBonge and Martinez. Channel 5, 7 and 9 news were on hand to watch the mayor negotiate a series of pathways along busy streets and flood control channels to get to the natural area of the ride in the Stoney Point area of Chatsworth.
Joining the mayor on the ride were LAPD and LAFD mounted units, LA Park Rangers and over 60 riders
From Sylmar, Lakeview Terrace, Shadow Hills, Chatsworth, Porter Ranch and as far away as the Brentwood Equestrian area of Sullivan Canyon. Captain Malinowski of LAPD Foothill Division came with members of the Community Cavalry, a volunteer group, currently training for safety and rescue patrols.
Councilmember Mitch Englander proudly showed off local area trails and emphasized how many lives were touched by Ride-On Therapeutic Riding Center. “We’re partnering with volunteers, celebrity Harrison Ford and have acquired the ranch next door to make sure that horses and trail riding are preserved forever in this area” said Englander. “This land now belongs to the City of LA.”
Preserving safe access to trails and connecting communities is a challenge in LA’s urban environment. Many former trails and connections to open space have often been blocked by development and streets. Opening up a system of greenways to link our parks is a task that the City of Los Angeles has yet to tackle on an organized basis.
Trails in parks are maintained and patrolled, but it’s the trails that connect to these open spaces that needs the most work. Councilmember Nury Martinez remarked about the distance some riders needed to travel to get to open space. Some of these trails outside of parks need more care and attention to make sure their access is not blocked and that they are maintained.
In September 2013, the LAEAC was awarded a grant from the National Park Service to work on forming a coalition between the US Forest Service, County of Los Angeles, Cities of Burbank and Glendale and other government agencies with the City of Los Angeles to strike up a cooperative agreement for trails that pass through multiple boundaries.
General Manager of the City’s Public works Department Kevin James will be reviewing a presentation from the Equine Advisory Committee that proposes critical updates to the City’s Equestrian and Hiking
Trails plan to fill in the missing links in the City’s public rights of way to give riders and their horses a safe alternative to sharing the road with cars.
Mary Benson is the District 6 representative to the Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee (LAEAC) and a trails advocate for the past 20 years. Mary will be a team member presenting information about youth and urban horses at the California State Greenways Conference in April.