In 2019, ACE Pacific West South was awarded funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for trail restoration and trail improvement activities within the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (SGMNM). Together, the San Gabriel Mountains and nearby Angeles National Forest (ANF) are a tremendous resource for the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, accounting for a combined 70% of the region’s open space and providing roughly a third of Los Angeles’ drinking water. Each year, millions of visitors take advantage of a wide variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding, OHV use, and wildlife watching in the area.
This wild and rugged landscape, only 90 minutes away or less from over 15 million people, is also home to rare and unique wildlife like California condor, spotted owl, bighorn sheep, and 1000-year old limber pine. The grizzly bear, proudly displayed on the California State flag, used to roam these mountains in high density, but were hunted to extinction in the early 1900’s. Surprisingly, the black bear, which our crews encountered on several occasions during this project, are not native to Southern California. In an effort to put bears back into the “food chain” after the grizzlies were gone, as well as move some problematic “garbage bears” from Yosemite Valley, over a dozen black bears were transplanted from Yosemite into the San Gabriel Mountains near Crystal Lake in November 1933.
The project’s primary goals were to restore or maintain system trails to U.S. Forest Service standards, to improve habitat and water quality to support healthy ecosystems, and to create or enhance opportunities for trail users to understand and appreciate the natural and cultural heritage of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. In March 2019, ACE National Trails Coordinator, Mark Loseth, assisted Pacific West South staff with conducting a trail assessment and inventory to determine the scope of work needed to reach project goals. Due to an unprecedented amount of snow and rainfall in Southern California over the previous winter, area trails saw heavy impact, with a great deal of trees blown down onto the trail. Before beginning work on specific trail features, the crew was tasked with removing a bulk of these trees from trail paths in the San Gabriel Mountains area. Effects of inclement weather, as well as heavy trail use and deferred maintenance, meant the crew had their work cut out for them!
Even with the winter damage, the crews maintained 10 trails that totaled more than 45 miles over 11 weeks. By the end of the project, twenty-nine logs, ranging from 10 inches to 48 inches in diameter and from Jefferson Pine to Ponderosa Pine, were bucked from the trail. The crew maintained almost five miles of trail, installed or repaired 52 grade dips, and installed more than 20 square feet of rock retaining wall. The ACE team had the amazing opportunity to work alongside volunteers from San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, learning crosscut saw techniques and valuable trail knowledge from experienced trail workers and C-level crosscut buckers.