Home­less leave hik­ers ill at ease

Vis­i­tors to Gabrielino Trail say a grow­ing tran­sient pop­u­la­tion is pos­ing safety risks.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Sara Car­dine sara.car­dine@la­times.com Car­dine writes for Times Com­mu­nity News.

For nearly two decades, Al­tadena Town Coun­cil­woman Dorothy Wong has hiked and biked up the Gabrielino Trail north­east of La Cañada Flin­tridge’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory.

But like many who fre­quent the Angeles Na­tional For­est, she’s be­gun to no­tice an inf lux of home­less peo­ple.

“I al­ways saw it as a place for recre­ation and camp­ing,” Wong said. “Within th­ese past five years or less, there are peo­ple com­ing in who are clearly home­less and try­ing to live there.”

In June, deputies with the Cres­centa Val­ley sher­iff ’s sta­tion re­sponded to a call from hik­ers who re­ported a makeshift en­camp­ment near the Gould Mesa camp­ground whose oc­cu­pants, they said, had con­fronted them with knives and ma­chetes. By the time au­thor­i­ties ar­rived, the camp had been va­cated.

Nancy Rose lives in El Monte and boards her horse at the Rose Bowl Rid­ers club in Ha­ha­mongna Wa­ter­shed Park. She said she’s stopped us­ing the Gabrielino Trail.

“I don’t feel safe any­more,” she said, de­scrib­ing fires, hu­man fe­ces and un­teth­ered dogs that spook horses. “It’s re­ally not fair to the public to have some­thing like that hap­pen­ing — and no­body’s do­ing any­thing.”

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit camp­ing out­side des­ig­nated ar­eas, as well as in­stal­la­tion of per­ma­nent camp­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Angeles Na­tional For­est camp­grounds im­pose a 14day stay limit per trip and cap campers at 30 days per year. But such rules can be dif­fi­cult to en­force, given the area’s ju­ris­dic­tional jumble of fed­eral, county and lo­cal over­sight.

Ger­ard Shadrick of Al­tadena said he vis­its the Gabrielino Trail with 9-year-old daugh­ter Talu­lah, who likes to catch tad­poles in nearby creeks.

Last week­end, the pair found a plucked chicken car­cass with its head float­ing in the stream, while two dozen smashed raw eggs sur­rounded the area. Nearby, glass prayer can­dles glowed in one of sev­eral burn spots lit­tered with smudged rolls of to­bacco.

“This is not cool,” Shadrick said. “My daugh­ter plays in that stream, and so do all th­ese other kids. It’s a public health is­sue.”

Of­fi­cials with the U.S. For­est Ser­vice turned down an in­ter­view re­quest, in­stead of­fer­ing a state­ment from Jamahl But­ler of the Los Angeles River Ranger Dis­trict.

“The Angeles Na­tional For­est is aware of is­sues re­lated to unau­tho­rized oc­cu­pancy of fed­eral lands at Gould Mesa. We are work­ing with our part­ner agen­cies to de­velop ef­fec­tive strategies to ad­dress th­ese is­sues,” the state­ment said. “The For­est Ser­vice re­mains com­mit­ted to re­source pro­tec­tion and public safety con­sis­tent with our mis­sion and avail­able re­sources.”

Wong said she rec­og­nizes the clash be­tween recre­ational users and for­est dwellers as one more man­i­fes­ta­tion of Los Angeles County’s grow­ing home­less pop­u­la­tion.

“The sit­u­a­tion is big­ger than just kick­ing peo­ple out,” she said. “We have to do some­thing, and that some­thing is not easy, what­ever it is.”

Pho­to­graphs by Raul Roa La Cañada Val­ley Sun

GER­ARD SHADRICK, a fre­quent visi­tor to the Gabrielino Trail, says he found a bare chicken car­cass with its head f loat­ing in a stream.

LIGHTED CAN­DLES rest at the Gabrielino Trail, north­east of Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory. Hik­ers say an in­flux of home­less peo­ple has been pos­ing a safety risk.

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