Arroyo Seco Trail Closure | Local Equestrians Urge City to Reopen Popular Path

A group of hors-riding enthusiasts recently urged City Council members to address the sudden closure of a frequently used equestrian trail in the Arroyo Seco park

PHOTO: (L) Ben Tansey (R) Eric Fabbro | News | (L): Tracy and Oakland (“Oakie”) ride along the Arroyo Seco equestrian trail. (R): Kathy Spencer speaks to City Council at a meeting on February 5, 2020

Equestrians came out in force Wednesday to implore the South Pasadena City Council to reopen an equestrian trail that was mysteriously closed in early January. The closure is creating a hazardous situation for riders because there is no safe alternative to the blocked half-mile stretch of trail that is tucked between Pasadena Avenue and the eastern side of the Arroyo Seco Golf Course and driving range. The closure begins just east of Arroyo Seco Stables and extends to Stoney Dr. near the Skateboard Park.

“It needs to be reopened immediately,” said Kathy Macy Spencer, who keeps two horses at Arroyo Seco Stables and was among the half dozen riders who spoke on the topic during the Council’s public comment period. “It’s very dangerous trying to ride anywhere else.”

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Environmental activist Elizabeth Bour, stressed the hazards that come with riding horses on streets rather than trails

Speakers said that while they can go up to Pasadena Avenue or along the bike path and Lohman Road on the other side of the golf course, both options pose risks to riders and horses.

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“Having a horse up on the street for that stretch [creates] far more liability for the city than anything that can happen on the trail,” stressed environmental activist Elizabeth Bour.

For riders with horses at Arroyo Seco Stables, the closure also cuts access to the many miles of riding trails in the Upper Arroyo Seco watershed, which is “beautiful–the prettiest riding in Los Angeles if you ask me,” said Janet Logan, a long time equestrian who said she’s ridden all over the city. “There really is no other safe option.”

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Janet Logan, a long-time equestrian who said she’s ridden all over Los Angeles

“We are in the process of making repairs to the trail area,” said City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, who thought the closure extended only along the driving range. “We are trying to do it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we are dealing with some extenuating circumstances.” She did not elaborate but later suggested the extenuating circumstances have something to do with legal issues.

There is a high netting between the trail and the driving range, though its height above the trail varies considerably as the grade of the trail rises and falls. There is only a low fence and a row of trees separating the much longer stretch between the trail and the golf course itself.

PHOTO: Ben Tansey | News | All the trail closure signs the City placed along the Arroyo Seco equestrian trail have been pushed aside, allowing free access

Fourth District Councilmember Michael Cacciotti said he knew there was an issue due to holes in the aging netting that intercepts golf balls coming from the driving range. It was unclear why holes in the netting there would also force closure of the trail along the golf course.

One rider on the trail Saturday, who identified herself only as Tracy, said she’d heard someone was hit by a golf ball and took some kind of legal action. She herself has been hit by a golf ball once and her horse had a couple close calls as well. Wednesday, riders told the Council they mostly feel safe along the trail and that posting signs about golf balls would be sufficient remedy.

There are several “horse trail closed” signs posted in several places along the trail but while they have an imposing appearance, they are made of very lightweight plastic. On Saturday all had been pushed aside, allowing riders, joggers and others to pass freely.

The equestrians also complained that the city was not up front about the reason for the closure.

Connie Flanders, a 46-year South Pasadena resident, said it was a long time before anyone even returned her calls seeking information about the closure and when they did, she was told “absolutely nothing.” There was some kind of “investigation” going on, but why or how long it would take were unclear.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Connie Flanders noted the difficulty in reaching anyone for information

Flanders and Bour said it was only in the last 24 hours that they learned the issue might have something to do with golf balls. “Whoever didn’t want to share with the public the cause for the trail closure should have been more transparent and maybe people would have been more understanding,” Bour said.

In 2016, the City amended its golf course operations management agreement with Chino Hills-based Donovan Bros., extending it through June 2020. Last April, the city filed a review of its 2018-19 strategic plan noting that golf course revenue enhancement discussions with Donovan Bros had been delayed, but that staff had met with investors to discuss upgrades and that responses “have been favorable.” It said a request-for-proposals to evaluate possible uses would be presented to the City Council.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.