4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What the pandemic has done to San Diego's trails

Morley Field/Balboa Park, Tecolote Canyon, Rose Canyon, Mission Trails, Los Penasquitos

“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego.”
“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego.”

Late last April, City of San Diego parks that had been closed since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic began to re-open. As gyms stayed shutdown and tennis and basketball courts remained off-limits, people began to flock to the open-space areas to stay in shape. The grassy lawns of Morley Field just off Upas Street were suddenly packed with fitness classes that were attempting to stay alive minus their typical indoor locales. Seeing a couple of ripped bodybuilders with their weight bench set up next to a sidewalk in the park side didn’t seem nearly as weird as it should have — everybody seemed to be turning the park into their new gym.

The trails at Morley Field filled up too. There were more hikers, runners, and bikers packed into the Florida Canyon trails than I have ever seen. As a result of the increased presence, the trails took on additional wear and tear. But repairs will apparently have to wait.

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association completed maintenance on the trails in Florida Canyon in 2019 and (pre-pandemic) 2020. According to Ben Stone, the trails coordinator for the biking group, they typically have a five-month window that centers on San Diego’s winter months to complete this work. The key is the rain adding moisture to the soil. You can bring in your own water and work in the dryer months, but, according to Stone, that “takes about twice the time it does to do the same thing when you have moisture in the soil.”

Stone is hoping that the rainy season stretches into April this year and that the city of San Diego gives the green light to allow the mountain bikers to complete more of these trail maintenance projects before everything dries up.

“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego,” Stone explained. “We even had a phone call with the head of parks and recreation, Andrew Field, and asked him to consider it. His response was that at this time the city is still not allowing it. As of right now, the biggest recipient, generally, of our volunteer labor and our paid staff labor is the city of San Diego.”

Last winter, Stone and his crew of 12-15 volunteers worked six four-hour events at Florida Canyon. Their work is still evident via the “rolling grade dips” that are present on the trails they repaired. On the trails, these come across as occasional angled bumps, but they’re actually drains. “You install drains at intervals based on how steep the trail is,” Stone explained. The drains allow the water to flow off the trail downslope instead of following the actual path of the trail and forming large ruts.

Rolling grade dips come across as occasional angled bumps, but they’re actually drains.

“The worst thing that happens is that if you develop a rut in the middle of the trail, people start using the trail on either side of the rut,” Stone said. “What happens is that the trail, unfortunately, widens as people just make a path walking on it. You want to help the water kind of choose a side so that you can keep the trail as a narrow trail and not expand it to five or ten feet in some areas.”

Another element playing into the widening of the trails is pandemic behavior. The trails are packed, but they’re filled with humans eager to avoid contact with one another. “There’s more volume of people literally on the trail which is causing them to not want to get too close to people in a narrow trail,” Stone explained. “They’re walking off-trail to avoid other people. So, they’re widening our trails because they don’t want to get close to each other.”

Florida Canyon. “There are so many bridges out."

Many of the trails in the Morley Field and other city-owned parks are what Stone refers to as “legacy trails.” These are trails that were present when the city purchased the open-space properties which turned into these city parks. These trails were often created via unplanned access routes that, over time, became the primary trail systems in these areas.

“The ownership comes into the city and the city goes, ‘Well, just from an environmental standpoint it’s easier to just take the trails we already have than try to create new ones.’ Then we end up with these legacy trails that never should have really existed in the beginning,” Stone said.

Broken stairs at Florida Canyon

Besides Morley Field/Balboa Park, Stone cites other areas such as Tecolote Canyon, Rose Canyon, Mission Trails, and Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve as other city parks that have “a lot of legacy trails that are in really rough condition.” As for the issues that need to be repaired at the Morley Field trails, Stone summed it up by saying “There are so many bridges out. Creek crossings that don’t have a bridge. Staircases that don’t exist in their entirety anymore. The whole canyon is kind of one giant hazard.”

Many trails in Morley Field are what Stone refers to as “legacy trails.”

He continued, “At this point, no one really does this work. The city of San Diego doesn’t have any dedicated trail workers per se. I don’t think they have for a long time. Rangers maybe used to do some of this work in the past, but they’re completely overwhelmed by the volume of use, the trash, the parking issues, and the vandalism that just come with a higher volume of people. There are more people getting lost calling for help. There are more people getting injured out on trails or not bringing enough water because they’re unprepared and sort of new to trails. The rangers have no capacity to take on this regular maintenance, and there are some other organizations who do some minor trail work, but they’re basically in the same situation that we are.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Grammys issue statement defending nomination of local activist’s metal rant

“Wind” Storm
“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego.”
“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego.”

Late last April, City of San Diego parks that had been closed since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic began to re-open. As gyms stayed shutdown and tennis and basketball courts remained off-limits, people began to flock to the open-space areas to stay in shape. The grassy lawns of Morley Field just off Upas Street were suddenly packed with fitness classes that were attempting to stay alive minus their typical indoor locales. Seeing a couple of ripped bodybuilders with their weight bench set up next to a sidewalk in the park side didn’t seem nearly as weird as it should have — everybody seemed to be turning the park into their new gym.

The trails at Morley Field filled up too. There were more hikers, runners, and bikers packed into the Florida Canyon trails than I have ever seen. As a result of the increased presence, the trails took on additional wear and tear. But repairs will apparently have to wait.

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association completed maintenance on the trails in Florida Canyon in 2019 and (pre-pandemic) 2020. According to Ben Stone, the trails coordinator for the biking group, they typically have a five-month window that centers on San Diego’s winter months to complete this work. The key is the rain adding moisture to the soil. You can bring in your own water and work in the dryer months, but, according to Stone, that “takes about twice the time it does to do the same thing when you have moisture in the soil.”

Stone is hoping that the rainy season stretches into April this year and that the city of San Diego gives the green light to allow the mountain bikers to complete more of these trail maintenance projects before everything dries up.

“Nearly every land manager in San Diego let us start getting back to the volunteer activities this winter with the exception of the city of San Diego,” Stone explained. “We even had a phone call with the head of parks and recreation, Andrew Field, and asked him to consider it. His response was that at this time the city is still not allowing it. As of right now, the biggest recipient, generally, of our volunteer labor and our paid staff labor is the city of San Diego.”

Last winter, Stone and his crew of 12-15 volunteers worked six four-hour events at Florida Canyon. Their work is still evident via the “rolling grade dips” that are present on the trails they repaired. On the trails, these come across as occasional angled bumps, but they’re actually drains. “You install drains at intervals based on how steep the trail is,” Stone explained. The drains allow the water to flow off the trail downslope instead of following the actual path of the trail and forming large ruts.

Rolling grade dips come across as occasional angled bumps, but they’re actually drains.

“The worst thing that happens is that if you develop a rut in the middle of the trail, people start using the trail on either side of the rut,” Stone said. “What happens is that the trail, unfortunately, widens as people just make a path walking on it. You want to help the water kind of choose a side so that you can keep the trail as a narrow trail and not expand it to five or ten feet in some areas.”

Another element playing into the widening of the trails is pandemic behavior. The trails are packed, but they’re filled with humans eager to avoid contact with one another. “There’s more volume of people literally on the trail which is causing them to not want to get too close to people in a narrow trail,” Stone explained. “They’re walking off-trail to avoid other people. So, they’re widening our trails because they don’t want to get close to each other.”

Florida Canyon. “There are so many bridges out."

Many of the trails in the Morley Field and other city-owned parks are what Stone refers to as “legacy trails.” These are trails that were present when the city purchased the open-space properties which turned into these city parks. These trails were often created via unplanned access routes that, over time, became the primary trail systems in these areas.

“The ownership comes into the city and the city goes, ‘Well, just from an environmental standpoint it’s easier to just take the trails we already have than try to create new ones.’ Then we end up with these legacy trails that never should have really existed in the beginning,” Stone said.

Broken stairs at Florida Canyon

Besides Morley Field/Balboa Park, Stone cites other areas such as Tecolote Canyon, Rose Canyon, Mission Trails, and Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve as other city parks that have “a lot of legacy trails that are in really rough condition.” As for the issues that need to be repaired at the Morley Field trails, Stone summed it up by saying “There are so many bridges out. Creek crossings that don’t have a bridge. Staircases that don’t exist in their entirety anymore. The whole canyon is kind of one giant hazard.”

Many trails in Morley Field are what Stone refers to as “legacy trails.”

He continued, “At this point, no one really does this work. The city of San Diego doesn’t have any dedicated trail workers per se. I don’t think they have for a long time. Rangers maybe used to do some of this work in the past, but they’re completely overwhelmed by the volume of use, the trash, the parking issues, and the vandalism that just come with a higher volume of people. There are more people getting lost calling for help. There are more people getting injured out on trails or not bringing enough water because they’re unprepared and sort of new to trails. The rangers have no capacity to take on this regular maintenance, and there are some other organizations who do some minor trail work, but they’re basically in the same situation that we are.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

How Black Friday worked for Tijuana shoppers

The border re-opening seemed to help both sides
Next Article

Tofu House goes to college

At latest chapter of Korean favorite, a robot brings hot stone pots to the table
Comments
1

This is an insightful article, pointing out many subtleties of having trails in parks. The comments about "legacy trails" is a good one. In No County there's the Elfin Forest Preserve, operated by the Olivanhain Municipal Water District. It has such a trail (called the Way Up Trail) that climbs from the creek access point on Harmony Grove Road up to the level of the reservoir. There is no real design to the trail, and must have been crudely cut into the hillside for access decades ago. But it endures, and is grossly overused, especially on Sundays. And for some reason that makes little sense to me, bicycles are allowed on it both uphill and downhill. Some years ago it was refurbished by convict work parties and that eliminated some of the worst ruts and rocky stretches. It needs repairs again.

But isn't it typical that the slobberin' city of SD is turning down free help from volunteers? That is especially poor when it isn't putting any paid staff on the job to do upkeep on the trails. The city government under this "strong mayor" system is worse than it was before when it had a city manager. There's no money for things like trail maintenance because it spends $18K a day to rent a high-rise office building downtown that cannot be used. Mismanagement anyone?

Feb. 24, 2021

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close