Growing Use of Trails Highlights the Work of Trail Planners

Trails have become very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more about how trail planners in L.A. County plan for multi-use trails and promote the safe use of trails.

2 minute read

July 28, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By Clement Lau


Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

Harvey Barrison / flickr

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, trails have become very popular as more and more people venture outside for recreation. In fact, some trails have become so popular that park agencies have had to implement online reservation and other systems to ensure physical distancing and regulate the number of trail users, especially on weekends.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is an example of one of these agencies as it started to offer timed entry reservations in early June for entrance to the popular Eaton Canyon Natural Area and access to the trail system. Timed entry reservations are free and intended to help keep the Eaton Canyon trails from becoming overcrowded and allow enough space for trail users to maintain physical distancing of six feet, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. In May, an overwhelming influx of visitors not adhering to the requirements for face coverings and physical distancing forced the closure of the Eaton Canyon Natural Area.

In this article, L.A. County park planner Clement Lau offers a behind-the-scenes look at the important trail planning work that is done by DPR. Specifically, its Trails Planning Section is responsible for a wide range of multi-use trail planning projects that serve hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers in a variety of settings, including rural, suburban, and urban areas. Adopted by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in December 2018, Phase II of the Santa Susana Mountains Trails Master Plan is the most recently completed trails master plan and includes a 67.5-mile, planned regional trail network within a 22-square-mile study area.

Developed with substantial input from stakeholders, the master plan recommends improvements to existing trails, proposes new trails, and identifies key connections and prime destinations within and adjacent to the study area in the Santa Clarita Valley and the northern foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains. DPR has also developed an updated trails website and the Trails LA County mobile app, both of which were launched just before National Trails Day on June 1, 2019. The refreshed website and new mobile app promote the use of trails and inform the public of the value and importance of stewardship, conservation, and habitat restoration of open space.

To meet the public’s need for trail-related information, both the website and app offer digital tools, including information on real-time alerts, maps, weather, trail length, elevation, difficulty level, rest stops, picnic locations, and much more. Read this article to learn more about trail planning and gain an appreciation for the thoughtfulness and care with which trail planners approach their work.

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