November 2015

Proposed Jamboree bike route.

Jamboree Road commuter bikeway option 

applauded by park enthusiasts

By Tina Richards

Following five months of community outrage against a proposed paved bikeway that would bisect Peters Canyon Park, OC Parks unveiled two variations of an alternate route that would complete that leg of the county-wide bike trail system without disturbing the park’s quiet natural ambiance.

Aligned with Jamboree Road, the alternate plan would connect with an existing trail at Canyon View, and another at Portola Parkway.  In one scenario, the bikeway would parallel Jamboree the entire way. In another, it would divert away from the thoroughfare just below the OC Fire Authority facility, head east along the ridge, and connect with Portola several blocks south of Jamboree.  Either way, the bikeway would be separated from Jamboree Road traffic by a physical buffer.  

The Jamboree alternative was introduced at a public meeting, Oct. 7, along with a more detailed presentation of the original route through Peters Canyon.  The paved park path would be separated from the existing hiking/riding trail by at least two feet, but the two tracks would intersect in four places.  The proximity of the trails, coupled with the crossings, raised safety concerns among park users who don’t think speeding street bikers are a good mix with hikers and horses. 

Sparks and ride
While the overwhelming majority of the nearly 200 people in attendance applauded the Jamboree alignment, OC Parks stressed that a final decision had not been made, and that both routes were still open to discussion.

“What’s left to discuss?” one park enthusiast shouted from the audience.  “We rejected the route through Peters back in April.  I thought it was dead.”

Apparently, it’s not.  Among the throng of Friends of Peters Canyon members in attendance and a youthful contingent from the Equalizers Running Club, a handful of two-wheel commuters argued that the park route was superior to the traffic on Jamboree.  Pointing out that Peters Canyon is a county park paid for by OC taxpayers, and not just the province of North Tustin and East Orange residents, several speakers said it should accommodate all users – including street bikers.  Another noted that paving the trail would allow more access to people in wheelchairs and using walkers who could not easily navigate the uneven dirt terrain.  And another pointed out that street bikers on the paved trail would not be speeding any more than mountain bikers on the park’s natural trails.

Horse sense
Most meeting attendees, however, challenged those arguments and insisted that the county select the Jamboree route. Paved park opponents lament the negative impact on wildlife, natural habitat and the park’s peaceful setting, but safety is their primary concern.  Peters Park, it was noted, is a long narrow canyon characterized by steep terrain. Most of the existing hiking and riding trails have significant elevation changes.  Downhill riders do gather speed, and the park’s topography is friendly only to the hardy.  Further, Peters Canyon is not large enough to serve every variety of user --  and it is already the most overused facility in the regional park system.

The proposal to pave a trail through Peters Canyon came when OC Parks’ work on an overall development plan for the resource met the Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) desire to complete a planned system of commuter bikeways that had been conceived in the 1970s.  In a conceptual drawing from that period, a bike lane was penciled in through what was then open space, but is now Peters Canyon Regional Park.  OCTA wants to finalize that portion of the overall bikeway – it’s one of two holes yet to be filled in.  OC Parks is not opposed to the bikeway, but wants to ensure that the park’s recreational and wildlife assets are protected.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who hosted the meeting, reported at the onset that “the question is, how do we all get along? How do we satisfy all users?”  He explained that OCTA was trying to connect bikeways that are now “mish-mashy,” and that the Peters Canyon portion was a small part of a larger discussion.  “It’s hard to make everybody happy,” he said.

Too many cooks
OC Parks Director Stacy Blackwell acknowledged that while the Peters Canyon alignment was created in a planning document 40 years ago, it may not be appropriate now.  “The plan will not be perfect,” she said, “but it will be the best we can do, topographically and environmentally, and providing the most possible recreational opportunities.”

Of the alternatives presented at the meeting, the park route is the least expensive and easiest to complete.  A Class I trail following Jamboree and meandering behind the Fire Authority would be the most costly, and the most difficult to make happen.  “The county already owns Peters Canyon,” Spitzer explained.  The Jamboree route is multi-jurisdictional – three cities, the county and Caltrans.  “You have to think about the probability of it actually happening,” he said.

An online petition, championed by Friends of Peters Canyon that opposes the park route has been signed by 2,906 people.  An OC Bike Club petition that supports the paved path through the park has been signed by 327 people.  OC Parks plans to hold another public hearing on the topic later this year.