Scenic Trail

The Mount St. Mary’s Trail was realigned and renamed the “Nancy & Dick Riordan Trail.”  The trail was scheduled to be completed in, approximately, November 2008, but a downturn in the economy and sale of the property has delayed the completion.  For now, the Trail will be closed to the public due to construction hazards.  The Riordan Trail, however, has already been officially dedicated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and half of the new trail has been constructed.

Trail Dedication Ceremony

Canyon Back Alliance Celebrates Dedication Of New Public Trail 

On April 19, 2007, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy formally dedicated a beautiful new trail in the Santa Monica Mountains – the Nancy & Dick Riordan Trail.  This new trail begins behind Mount St. Mary’s College in Brentwood, north of Bundy Ave., and connects with Canyonback Trail (also known as “Kenter Trail”), south of the Mountaingate development.

One of many ocean views from the Riordan Trail

The Riordan Trail replaces the old Mount St. Mary’s Fire Road Trail.  The Mount St. Mary’s Trail had been enjoyed by the public for a broad array of recreational uses for more than 50 years.  But the trail’s natural beauty had been significantly degraded by private development in the Mountaingate area beginning in the 1980s and continuing since then.  By August 2005, the trail had been completely closed to the public by a developer.

Canyon Back Alliance, with the assistance of its many supporters, fought this public-trail closure in court and before municipal planners.  As Canyon Back Alliance was preparing for a major hearing that we expected would restore public access to the Mount St. Mary’s Trail – by opening access to the public streets that had been built and gated on the trail’s path in Mountaingate – Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Office intervened.

Tom Freeman and Wendy-Sue Rosen (Canyon Back Alliance), Eric Edmunds (Save Our Mnts., Inc.), Frans Bigelow (Castle & Cooke) and Paul Edelman (Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy)

Tom Freeman and Wendy-Sue Rosen (Canyon Back Alliance), Eric Edmunds (Save Our Mnts., Inc.), Frans Bigelow (Castle & Cooke) and Paul Edelman (Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy)

Rosendahl, who had publicly supported our efforts, had previously asked Norman Kulla, his District Director and Special Counsel, to try and mediate a resolution.  But the slow-moving mediation process, which appeared unlikely to resolve the dispute, gained unexpected momentum when former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan entered the process.

Mayor Riordan and his wife, child-advocate Nancy Daly Riordan, had been hiking along the Mount St. Mary’s Trail in April 2006 when they came upon a locked gate and fence – topped with concertina wire.  Just a few weeks earlier, the LA Times described the legal dispute and photographed Canyon Back Alliance’s lawyers at the same gate.

Robert Garcia, The City Project [], and Tom Freeman, Bird Marella, at the Gate, 2006

While the concertina-wire topped fence might have stopped other, less hardy trekkers, it did not stop the Riordans, who proceeded to hike down the ravine then back up the steep mountain, around the fence.  They were shocked that a developer had been allowed to gate-off public access to a public trail they had enjoyed for many years.  The next day Mayor Riordan contacted Robert Garcia, formerly of the Center for Law in the Public Interest, now Executive Director and Counsel for “The City Project” [], Tom Freeman of Canyon Back Alliance and the Bird Marella law firm, and Councilman Bill Rosendahl to find out how he could help restore public access.

Councilman Rosendahl asked Riordan to work with Norman Kulla in his attempt to mediate the dispute.  Mayor Riordan’s goal was to create a new trail running outside the gated communities, as Canyon Back Alliance, Save Our Mountains, Inc., and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy suggested.  Riordan brought together geologists, engineers, developer Castle & Cooke, Canyon Back Alliance, Save Our Mountains, Inc., and the Conservancy to hammer out a solution.  It was not easy – but it worked.  Out of this effort was born the new trail.

Nancy Riordan’s triumphant return to the open Gate, with Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Canyon Back Alliance Board Member Wendy-Sue Rosen

On April 19, 2007, almost exactly one year after the Riordans first encountered the locked gate, they were honored at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy dedication ceremony for the new trail.  Paying tribute to the Riordans were Los Angeles City Council Members Bill Rosendahl and Eric Garcetti, Liz Cheadle, Chair of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Laura Plotkin, State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s District Director, and others.

Nancy Daly Riordan and Mayor Richard Riordan at the Trail Dedication

The Riordan Trail will not only restore the historic link between Mount St. Mary’s College and Canyonback Trail – it will create a trail route that far surpasses the old trail in unspoiled, natural beauty.  While the old trail passed through a public street within the condo-lined streets of the Stoney Hill residential enclave in Mountaingate, the new trail rides the upper rim of the mountains, providing remarkable panoramic views of the City and Ocean, before descending into pristine Bundy Canyon – providing the first and only public access to this lush area.  The trail will pass through approximately 300 acres of newly-dedicated Open Space property.

The Trail winds through Bundy Canyon
Eric Edmunds tests the new trail

The trail is being designed and built by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, with the assistance of Canyon Back Alliance Board Member Desmond McDonald.  They have already completed approximately 1.6 miles of the trail, which is expected to run about 2.6 miles.  The trail cannot be completed, however, until further work is done by the developer, Castle & Cooke, which is likely to take another 18 months.  Until then, the trail will be inaccessible due to the presence of construction hazards.

Canyon Back Alliance Board Members Desmond McDonald and Wendy-Sue Rosen

December 29, 2006:  The City of Los Angeles has formally requested that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy name the scenic trail that will be constructed to connect the Mount St. Mary’s Trail to the Canyonback Trail as the “Nancy and Dick Riordan Trail.”  The City has requested that the trail be so designated in recognition of Mayor Riordan’s efforts to settle the dispute and “the lifelong efforts of Nancy and Dick Riordan to public service and improving community life.”  Canyon Back Alliance enthusiastically supports this request.