Claremont adds more open space

Ten years after fire forced the closure of north Claremont’s Sycamore Canyon, the park and accompanying trailheads are open once more.

About 40 hikers and 4-legged friends celebrated the park’s grand reopening over the weekend, eager to be the first to add their footprints to the newly-renovated pathway leading into Claremont’s beloved open space. A cool breeze and clear skies provided the perfect backdrop for the day as the city made good on its promise to continue to protect its wildlands.

“This ceremony is a tribute to the city’s commitment to preserving our open spaces, one of the distinct features of our city,” said Mayor Larry Schroeder to the crowds awaiting entrance to the trail.

With the reopening of Sycamore Canyon, the city now adds to the plethora of trails and pathways throughout the Claremont hillsides. Others include those at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Loop, Gail Mountain, Johnson’s Pasture and the Thompson Creek Trail. With the overcrowding along other Claremont pathways, notably the Wilderness Loop, hikers and city dignitaries alike welcomed the alternative means of entering the Claremont foothills.

“Let’s keep this very quiet,” joked Councilmember Sam Pedroza.

The journey to rebuilding Sycamore Canyon has been years in the making, a daunting task after the 2003 Grand Prix Fire left much of the area ravaged and overrun with debris. It was devastating for Azren Tarynsai and her daughters Geniece Dibble, Dayla Zdunich and Denelle Zdunich, who enjoyed nearly weekly hikes and picnics in Sycamore Canyon, or what they referred to as “the secret park.”

“It was so peaceful up here so we were really sad when it closed down,” Ms. Tarynsai said.

In December 2010, the Claremont City Council sought to restore the public amenity with its unanimous approval of the Sycamore Canyon Park Restoration Project. With thousands of dollars in grant money and the help of several local organizations, the work began. The Los Angeles Fire Department helped clear the debris from the canyon, while the Los Angeles Conservation Corps chipped in to remove 35 non-native Eucalyptus trees. Sycamore and Oak tree seedlings were planted in their place.

Two of the more popular aspects of the restoration were reconstructing the half-mile walking trail leading toward the Boy Scout ruin and the addition of another 3-quarter-of-a-mile trailhead connecting Sycamore Canyon with the greater wilderness area. After a ceremonious ribbon cutting, hikers flooded onto the new pathways. Among the first to venture in was Molly Tanner and her Border Collie Merlin, residents of the Sycamore Canyon neighborhood who frequent the Wilderness Park trails.

“We are excited about the new shortcut home,” she said of the trailhead down Gail Mountain and through the canyon.

Just a few yards away, Ms. Tarynsai prepared to head up the trail with her daughters, who had surprised her with the trip to the park’s grand re-opening. With an extra bundle along for the journey, Ms. Dibble’s 5-month-old son, Dash, the girls prepared to embark on what they hope will be many hikes and picnics to come at “the secret park.”

Hikers were pleased to see the hillside nook as lush as it was years ago. Those who helped with the canyon restoration hope hikers will continue to enjoy the natural beauty of Sycamore Canyon and the city’s prized open spaces.

“We have been able to demonstrate, here in this canyon, how we are able to regenerate nature and the natural environment,” said Mark von Wodtke of the Claremont Environmental Design Group. “I think this really is a cause for celebration.”

Sycamore Canyon is located along the foothills, to the back of Higginbotham Park, at 599 Mt. Carmel Drive. The hours correspond with the Wilderness Park hours, which can be found by visiting the city’s website at www.ci.claremont.ca.us.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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