Community planning requires patience, but in the long run it pays off and can be very rewarding. Twelve years ago I attended a meeting chaired by Phil Hamilton to discuss future trails throughout Big Bear Valley. The group was formed as an ad hoc committee of the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District and took the name of the Trails Coalition.
After a year of discussing how we could improve public access and identification of the trails throughout the Valley it was decided that the group should form as a nonprofit and hence became the Trails Foundation. These few trail advocates then proceeded to look for funding several highly needed trails, which is where I got directly involved.
Working for the city of Big Bear Lake allowed me to pursue several grant opportunities. In 2012 we were able to secure a Caltrans planning grant of $197,000 with San Bernardino County as co-applicant to develop a master plan of trails for the Valley.
Fortunately for me, the city had a very bright and energetic staff that took the ball running. Over the next two years numerous public hearings were held throughout the Valley to discuss the necessary facilities needed for pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians. The ultimate product was the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Equestrian Master Plan of Trails for Big Bear Valley.
The plan, which was adopted by the city of Big Bear Lake and the county laid out a future vision for the trails and bikeways throughout the Valley. The goal of the plan was to connect all of the residential and commercial areas of the Valley to our greatest asset the national forest.
Since that time the implementation of the plan has moved aggressively forward. The goal of providing sidewalks on the north side of Big Bear Boulevard has been completed from Stanfield Cutoff to Red Ant Hill.
The four lane portion of Big Bear Boulevard has been restriped to accommodate a bike lane on the north side, and an new trailhead has been constructed at City Hall called the Happy Hills Trail.
In addition, the Trails Foundation, in conjunction with the Southern California Mountains Foundation, has developed a seamless Valleywide trails identification program being implement as we speak. New trailhead kiosks and interpretive signage has been added to Happy Hills Trail and the Alpine Pedal Path.
The Master Trails Plan also envisioned a multipurpose backbone trail along Rathbun Creek that would connect the far end of Sand Canyon at Forest Service Road 2NO8 to the lakeshore. The first phase of that trail has been completed from Elm Street north to the old trout pond. The second phase from the trout pond to Big Bear Boulevard is in design with a new trailhead and parking lot located between Captains Anchorage and Mountain Cafe.
In addition, engineering and design is being done to complete a pedestrian/bicycle pathway along the east side of Moonridge Road to connect the new zoo to the trail at Elm Street.
Permits are being sought to widen Stanfield Cutoff on the west side and to utilize the right of way on the north side of Big Bear Boulevard along Eagle Point Estates to extend the Pedal Path to the Interlaken Shopping Center.
Permits and design are also being completed to extend the Stanfield Marsh Boardwalk to the Convention Center. Grant money has been awarded to the city to begin designing a dedicated bike lane that will run clockwise around the entire lake. And just last month, equestrian advocates formed a group to begin protecting and constructing trails in the East Valley.
All of these projects are identified in the Master Plan of Trails, which started out as a vision but is starting to show amazing results. Community planning has always required patience, but for me to actually be able to walk along the completed Happy Hills Trail and the first phase of Rathbun Trail gives me great pride and personal satisfaction. I may not be here to see the completion of all the identified projects, but I know that someday the Master Plan of Trials, a vision of a few trail advocates had 12 years ago, will become reality.