We’ve all experienced or read about the diminishing access to our prime public beaches – limited parking and facilities, closed pathways, and the absence of enforcement to ensure the public’s right of way.Similar forces are at work in areas near our trailheads. While every controversial access may have its own idiosyncratic backstory, the basic plot lines are all too familiar: Residents want to protect their privacy, enhance their exclusivity and ensure their security from the visiting riff-raff. Corporate-owned lands may have liability concerns, as well as the fear of creating a public right of way that may become irreversible.In Brentwood hills for example, the community called Crestwood Hills has been the seeming nexus for multiple battles over access to the surrounding trails that wind their way north towards Mullholland. A few years ago, the Hilton group started developing high-end mega mansions on the west side of the Kenter Fire road, and anxieties were high that the dirt road would be opened to vehicles as a back door to the development – and maybe even a thoroughfare from the Valley. Complicated lawsuits later, the homes are mostly built (including the Governor’s) and the fire road is still a fire road, albeit connected to a freshly paved utility road.Shortly thereafter, the Getty, which owns undeveloped acres in the area, including the Kenter trailhead entrance, assumed a defensive attitude toward homeowners unhappy with the open access that was apparently attracting a variety of late night revelers and random troublemakers. After much discussion, gates were installed across the Kenter entrance, open untill 8 p.m. It was a seemingly workable compromise.Next, developers and local residents on the Valley side thought that gates restricting access along Kenter’s crest would be a good idea, but Councilman Rosendahl weighed in with a negative view of that proposal, and all is quiet on that northern front for now.Hiking trails on the northern edge of Crestwood Hills Park, on the canyon floor just below Kenter, are only accessible via Tumbleweed Camp, which leases the land from Getty. Tumbleweed has always been a great friend of the community and for many years unceremoniously allowed locals to hike through its facility to the upper trails. (While these trails are also theoretically accessible from Kenter, the descending pathway is virtually impassable). Gates now seal off the entrance — a great loss for the handful of devotees that knew about the route. I am scheduled to meet with the camp’s owner in the near future and the possibility of re-opening the trail is high on my agenda for discussion. I’ll report the outcome in a future column. In the interim, please share with me any special insights you may have about the diminishing trails on the westside.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes may call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.
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