Nature Center gets $500,000 to fix trail damaged in Sand Fire

File photo. The Nature Center Trailhail at the Placerity Canyon Nature Center waits for the day's first hikers on Dec. 3. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal. 12032015

Staffers at the Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center are getting $500,000 to fix a popular trail damaged by the 2016 Sand Fire and the heavy rains that followed it.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $500,000 in funding to repair the 1.8-mile-long Canyon Trail, which sustained major damage following the Sand Canyon Fire in 2016.

The fire destroyed areas of vegetation along the trail, and subsequent heavy rains in early 2017 caused mudslides that eroded significant portions of the trail, forcing closure to the public since the spring of 2017.

Los Angeles County Regional Park Superintendent Russell Kimura manned the nature center fort in July 2016, as the Sand Fire advanced.

“I sat here waiting for the fire to arrive,” he said Tuesday.  “No one was here at first, then everybody was here.

“What stopped the fire was the aircraft,” he said. “I saw the fire right outside my window, and that’s when the planes came.”

“The fire went through here and burned up the entire campground,” Kimura said.

What really tore up the trail was “all that sand and clay, which all ran into Placerita Creek.”

The approved restoration project calls for the removal of non-native and invasive plants, debris and brush along the popular trail. In addition, it will repair eroded trail sections, replacing wayfinding signage, damaged benches and bicycle traffic calming devices, as well as related improvements.

“Today’s action will allow the Canyon Trail to be reopened for public access once work is completed,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose Fifth District Office is helping to fund this project.

“I know how important outdoor recreation is to the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley, which is why I’m pleased to fully support this project.”

Work on the trail is slated to begin in July of this year, with completion anticipated in March 2020.

The $500,000 cost was secured through $300,000 in Proposition A Safe Neighborhood Parks County Excess Funds available through Barger’s office, as well as $200,000 from the California State Habitat Conservation Fund.

As part of the Board of Supervisors’ approval, the trail restoration project calls for the hiring of at-risk youth to perform weed abatement and general clean-up duties.

“We are grateful to Supervisor Barger and the entire Board of Supervisors for their support of this important trail restoration at Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Director John Wicker.

“The Canyon Trail is a significant amenity of the park, and we look forward to reopening it and providing access once again to the community,” he said.

The Sand Fire broke out July 22, 2016, off of Highway 14 just northeast of Sand Canyon Road. It burned at least 41,432 acres, killed one Sand Canyon resident, destroyed 19 homes, and prompted the evacuation of several SCV neighborhoods.

Kimura said he is hoping to have the trail repaired before April.

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