San Gabriel Valley Tribune

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Article Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2003


- Under Siege
- Cartels growing pot in forest
- Forest at crossoads over public use
- Lake not so crystal
- Fire threat still high, officials say
- Facing Extinction
- Masses and Messes
- A foul problem: garbage
- Groups spread blame for forest damage
- Forest dwellers have created their share of problems
- 'Static' budget hinders forest
- Bad roads hinder vistor, fire vehicle access
- Adventure Pass raises funds, eyebrows
- Saving the forest a tall task


Bad roads hinder visitor, fire vehicle access
Money restraints stall repairs

By Diana L. Roemer, Staff Writer

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST -- Getting through the Angeles National Forest these days is nearly as difficult as when a dirt trail was the sole pathway during the 1800s.

That first road in the forest, a re-worked Indian trail up Little Santa Anita Canyon, was built by Benjamin Wilson, after whom Mount Wilson was named. It was roughly hewn, but at least it went through the middle.

Visitors today don't have it so lucky. You can't go to the top through the middle anymore, not since state Highway (39) was closed in 1978.

Rockslides, mudslides, shifting hills and lack of funds have kept 39 from re-opening.

Caltrans Environmental Planner Cleavon Govan said it would take "millions' of dollars to repair that road.

"You're talking big money to do that: You'd have to cut into slopes, make sure the slopes don't fall down, and then there's the environmental issues,' Govan said.

With the 39 in seemingly hopeless condition, people must drive up either side of the forest to get to ridges. Visitors must cruise up Angeles Crest (2) Highway from La Canada Flintridge on the west. From the east, they must travel on the Barstow (15) Freeway to Pearblossom State Highway (138).

Hwy 39
The Road is closed to vehicle traffic at the northern portion of Highway 39 where it meets Angeles Crest Highway (2) at Islip Saddle. Bill Hoghead with the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders opens that gate with special permission from the Forest Service. (Photo by Dan Simpson)

Hwy 39
A collapsed portion of the closed section of Highway 39. (Photo by Dan Simpson)

Forest Engineer Sonja Bergdahl blames it on the mountains. "They move,' Bergdahl said.

But budgetary constraints provide a mountain of trouble, too. Caltrans was poised to reconnect the 39 to the 2 last year, but then the state budget crunch came, showing a multibillion-dollar deficit, said Caltrans spokesman Ron Kosinski.

"When a project had to go, it was that road,' Kosinski said.

Shoemaker Road, which branches northeast off the East Fork road, is a prime example of road projects being hamstrung by money tightening.

Shoemaker was planned as an escape route through the forest to the desert in the event of a nuclear holocaust, said Byron Kimball, fire captain of the East Fork Station.

The approximately two-mile paved road turns into a fire road, then stops at a river-rock wall.

Work started on it in the late 1950s, but halted in 1976 because of lack of funding and a blunder: the road would have cut right through Sheep Mountain Wilderness, Kimball said.

There are more than 1,000 miles of meandering dirt and pavement roads through the forest, some crumbling, some useless, others, such as in San Dimas Canyon, thrashed by Mother Nature.

Off-road enthusiasts use and often degrade the few that are open.

One such road, 3N17, between Mill Creek Summit and the Alder Saddle, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a retired forest worker who says a sensitive plant species, the San Gabriel Paintbrush, is being decimated by off-road vehicles. He says the forest service is violating its own rules by allowing off-roaders on it.

-- Angeles National Forest, by Roy Murphy, and The San Gabriels, by John W. Robinson contributed to this story. Diana L. Roemer can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2105, or by e-mail at

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