By Brian Park
Four trails, already in use by outdoor enthusiasts, in San Juan Capistrano’s northwest open space were officially added to the city’s Master Plan of Trails after the City Council unanimously approved a General Plan amendment Tuesday.
The city will add 3,118 feet of new trails and trail connections, located on the 2C Ranch property, to its 43.15-mile trail system. The City Council also approved the proposed names for the four trails: the 2C Ranch Trail, Trabuco Creek West Bank, Trabuco Creek Trail and the Foster Trail, named after former city employee Tony Foster, who helped coordinate and organize the city’s trail system nearly a decade ago.
“When I got to City Council nine years ago, we had no trail committee and no one really watching the trails,” Councilman Sam Allevato said. “(Foster) just took it upon himself to champion the fact we had 35 miles of trails back then. He wanted to get them connected. There was no way for the public to interface with the city on this. He was kind of a lone ranger.”
Maintenance for the trails will be provided by San Clemente-based Ed Stewart and Associates for $330 per month, Director of Development Services Grant Taylor said.
The trails, which formerly served as ranch roads, have been used by mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and equestrians. City staff has worked with a working group, consisting of members of the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission, to implement a trail signage program. Ten trail signs and eight trail head signs will be installed using $10,000 the city has allocated, according to Commissioner Renee Ritchie, who also told the council that more signs are needed for the city’s other trails.
“We have so many trails in this city that are unmarked and not safe. Ten trail signs is nothing. We need about 30 or 40 because our trails are so long and there are some safety issues about this,” Ritchie said.
The new trail head signs will include barcodes that can be scanned using smartphones to access emergency information, Taylor said. Planning Commissioner Ginny Kerr addressed the council and suggested the installation of warning signs with disclaimers that could release the city from any liability in case of injury. City Attorney Hans Van Ligten said the city isn’t mandated to do so because the city is improving—not modifying—the existing trails but added that he would look into the matter.
“I think it’s important as we go on to get more emergency information at a crossroads of trails. We don’t have the money now, but I’d like to see that moving forward,” Councilwoman Laura Freese said.