This article was originally published at 11:56 p.m. Tuesday. It was updated at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday with a full recap of Tuesday's meeting.
The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council unanimously approved the majority of a staff recommendation Tuesday that will open up additional trails in the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve to cyclists.
With Tuesday's vote, mountain bikers will now have access to 15 additional trails across the multiple nature reserves contained within the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. Previously, those trails had either not been designated or were limited to equestrians and pedestrians only.
Proponents for both sides of the issue filled the council chambers for a meeting that lasted more than five hours. In all, close to 40 speakers addressed the city council to argue their point.
Opponents to the plan included equestrians, hikers and advocates for limiting recreation in the preserve. They argued that cyclists often spook horses, cause safety issues on narrow trails and lead to environmental degradation by riding off trail and creating their own spur trails.
"Speed and extreme challenges are the goal for this sport," Barbara Ailor said of mountain biking. "To say a trail is multi use is really, sadly incorrect... Nobody can enjoy a multiuse trail that resembles the X-Games."
Audience members applauded.
Nancy Wildman, an equestrian, also took issue with the speed aspect of downhill mountain biking. "I just don't feel like I should have my safety put at risk because people want to come speeding down the hill," Wildman said. "I don't have anything against bicyclists, it's the speed that causes the issue."
Another resident questioned whether allowing mountain biking in the preserve lives up the the conservancy's mission of providing quiet and peaceful solitude in nature.
"I am very devastated by what has been happening to our nature preserve, which is not primarily a recreation area," she said. "It is for passive recreation, if any."
Cyclists at the meeting argued that the actions of a few bad apples should not represent the cycling community as a whole and that the majority of interactions between user groups are friendly and cordial.
"I would urge to you disregard all the doom and gloom you have been hearing... One incident five years ago is trying to be portrayed as an everyday incident," said Mark Matthews. "No one wants to get kicked off trails... We all live in L.A. County; we all have to get along."
Matthews sentiments of a coexistence between hikers, cyclists and equestrians were echoed by many on both sides of the issue who agreed that a few people are ruining the experience for everyone else.
"Whether the group you may associate yourself with makes contact with the trails in the preserve with hiking boots, running shoes, stroller wheels, bicycle tires or horse shoes, you are not a privileged class," said James Riley. "It is also important to recognize that there are those among each of these groups who unfortunately misuse the preserve... and no single group deserves condemnation because of the mis-acts of the ignorant, inconsiderate or unconcerned few of their members."
Sean Martin, a horse trainer in Rolling Hills Estates, attributed bad encounters between equestrians and cyclists to a lack of education on trail etiquette.
"Horse groups and bicyclists need to come together as one," Martin said. "For me, education all around makes multiuse trails work ... I do agree with multiuse if everyone in this room gets educated on how to be safe on the trails with each other."
The approval of the plan did come with a few stipulations including the placement of signs that will ask bikers to walk their bikes on dangerous parts of certain trails at the request of Councilman Jim Knight.
In addition, the council voted to turn down city staff's recommendation to open the Landslide Scarp Trail and eastern branch of the Ishibashi Farm Trail to mountain bikers based on line of sight and safety concerns.
The city council said its biggest issue with passing the new plan was how rules in the preserve will be enforced.
Councilman Jerry Duhovic called for system where cyclists would only be allowed on the trails on odd days of the month to keep them separated from hikers and equestrians.
"The biggest problem I have, I think, is (hikers and equestrians) no longer go to the trails because they don't feel safe," said Duhovic. "I think in some way, shape or form, there needs some separation."
Councilwoman Susan Brooks proposed a three-strikes plan that would ban users from the preserve after three infractions but other council members challenged how that plan could be enforced.
In the end, the city council made an additional motion to direct city staff to prepare recommendations in the next 90 days for enforcing trail use rules on the nature preserve.
"I don't think it matters what we decide tonight if we don't have enforcement," said Mayor Pro Tem Brian Campbell. "It is just happy talk if we don't have some type of real enforcement combined with an educational program to make it stick."
New Trail Use Designations:
Filiorum Reserve (Previously Undesignated):
- 6 trails encompassing 3.1 miles designated multiuse (pedestrian, equestrian, bicycle).
- 2 trails encompassing 0.5 miles designated pedestrian and equestrian only.
Abalone Cove Reserve
- Via de Campo Trail: Changed from pedestrian only to pedestrian/bicycle.
- Chapel View Trail: Changed from pedestrian/equestrian to multiuse.
- Beach School Trail: Changed from pedestrian to pedestrian/bicycle.
- Harden Trail: Trail closed completely due to erosion.
- Portuguese Point Loop Trail: Changed from pedestrian only to pedestrian/bicycle.
Three Sisters Reserve
- Trail plan changed to include multiuse connector trail between the Three Sisters and Filiorum Reserve.
Portuguese Bend Reserve
- Burma Road Overlook: New multiuse trail added to lead to an overlook.
- Pine Grove Trail: Trail to be closed due to a fire that burned the pine grove.
- Landslide Scarp Trail: Will remain pedestrian/equestrian only.
- Ishibashi Farm Trail: Eastern branch will remain pedestrian/equestrian only.
Ocean Trails Reserve
- Sagebrush Walk Trail: Changed from pedestrian only to pedestrian/bicycle.