By Liz Richell
Orange Park Acres is a unique, equine-focused neighborhood in East Orange. Since its beginning in 1928, it has been known as a close and friendly community that is passionately guarded and guided by the Orange Park Association, the neighborhood group dedicated to the preservation of its bucolic environment.
The association includes various special interest groups, perhaps the most important of which is the Trails Committee, formed to oversee the trail system that began in the 1970s. Over the years, the development of residential properties (which must be at least one acre) has included recreational trails. These trails are open to the public, and now encompass more than 20 contiguous miles, which translates to an astounding 50 acres of linear park. A year ago, keen horse riders Julie Maurer and David Hillman approached the Trails Committee with the idea for an Adopt-a-Trail system. Aware that the small group of volunteers who maintained the trails was shouldering all of the responsibility for upkeep, Julie and David proposed that all trail users could be involved in the care, and particularly safety, on a day-to-day basis.
See it, report it
The notion was simple – ride or walk any section of the trail, and report any hazard that you see. In typical OPA fashion, riders embraced the idea, and the calls started coming in. Sue Nelson reported a broken drainpipe that created a partly disguised pothole, lethal to the safety of a horse and rider. Another alerted the Trail Committee to a collapsed fence on the Meads S-curve; and another noted accumulated tumbleweeds that barred trail access.The Adopt-a-Trail idea is evolving and gaining momentum. It has already gathered a growing network of those with particular skills or equipment who are willing to help. The system spreads the load of responsibility, not only to identify problems, but to have them fixed. Volunteers respond to alerts quickly, and get to work fixing current problems while enjoying camaraderie and pride in the system they are help-ing to maintain. Local homeowner associations and other groups in the community that care about trails have joined in enthusiastically – not just OPA residents, but all horseback riders and dog walkers that enjoy any part of the system. The list of those ready to provide skills and/or equipment include Sonny Bryant, who owns a tractor; Bruce Williams, who operates a backhoe; Tom Davidson, who is always willing to loan his reliable “Old Yeller” truck; Lance Mora, was on the spot to mend a fence; and Toni Bradley, who is a good liaison with city and county officials. The Trail Committee remains responsible for big problems: erosion; broken pipes; grading, and resurfacing.
One of a kind
Hillman, who travels the state working with horses, said that there is nothing like OPA and its surroundings anywhere else. The trails connect three regional parks — Santiago Oaks, Irvine and Peters Canyon — and a rider can find so many routes, that it is never necessary to ride out and retrace the same trail to return.The trails have always been maintained by volunteers with funding earned from OPA and Trail Committee events. Adopt-a-Trail is encouraging donations of funds or much-needed materials from area businesses. The system is grateful for landscape supplies from Orange Coast Hardwood and Lumber, and for assistance hauling away trimmings from Blue Ribbon Nursery. A present need is road base for the trails.If you have a skill, a piece of useful equipment and/or appropriate supplies, or if you notice a safety hazard along the trail system, call or text Julie at (714) 742-1617 or David at (831) 594-2192; or email to email@example.com. Keep up to date on Facebook at OPA-Adopt-a-Trail.com.
Tumbleweeds clog a trail in Orange Park Acres