Walking Santiago Creek in Santa Ana

May 15, 2009 § 13 Comments

David Schmid leading our walking tour of Santiago Creek

David Schmid leading our walking tour of Santiago Creek

I had a fun time this afternoon meeting up with three of my closest friends from my high school days in Orange County. Todd McHenry, Kyle Tonokawa, David Schmid and I all attended Tustin Presbyterian Church together, as well as being active in Boy Scout Troop 33. It was great to catch up with these folks – thanks, in part to the wonders of Facebook. I shared my book with them, and David and I ended up speaking about creek restoration efforts that he’s been involved with in the neighborhood where he lives in Santa Ana.

Map of Santiago Creek - from the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance Website

Map of Santiago Creek - from the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance Website (click for larger image - the spot we explored today is in the lower left)

Dave is excited about the idea of a greenway trail along the lower portion of Santiago Creek, a tributary of the Santa Ana River (which I used to bike along to get to the beach, when I was a kid.) Dave’s been discussing it with some folks at the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance which works to preserve and restore the creek.

Flower Street Bridge over Santiago Creek

Flower Street Bridge over Santiago Creek

After lunch, we decided to head over to walk the John Fisher Park Hiking Trail – or what exists of it today.  It begins at John Fisher Park in Santa Ana, near the intersection of Flower Street and Memory Lane. The above picture shows Todd, Dave, and Kyle atop the park-adjacent Flower Street Bridge over Santiago Creek – apparently a City Beautiful era bridge that was recently re-built. The first things Dave pointed out were these 1930’s WPA-built retaining walls, with steps leading down to the creek:

WPA-built Steps into Santiago Creek

WPA-built Steps into Santiago Creek

Here’s a photo from the middle of the park.  As an L.A. River advocate, these sorts of hole-in-the-fence access points looked very familiar:

Creek Access!

Creek Access!

We went through a similar gap at the end of the fence at the back (east) end of the park, and walked along the north bank of the creek. There was a well-traveled dirt path along the bank of the dry creek (David is standing on the path in the photo at the top of this entry.) The existing trail has quite a few mature cottonwood trees and other vegetative cover. There was also plenty of arundo donax – an invasive bamboo plant that we also get too much of in many Southern California waterways. Though it’s a weed, it does indicate that there’s water underground at the site.

We continued upstream until we crossed under the 5 Freeway. Dave explained that the city of Santa Ana had worked to excavate earth below the freeway to create vertical clearance so a connection can be made to the bike path on the east side of the freeway. In that area, a parking lot for the Discovery Science Center had unfortunately encroached on the creek. Here’s the view upstream from the bike path bridge there:

View Upstream

View Upstream

David spoke about how he’s hoping that he can improve the rudimentary trail in this area. The project could include making unofficial access more official, removal of exotics, planting tree cover, and making the path more accessible for hikers and possibly mountain bikes. He’s hoping this might possibly as part of an Eagle Scout project, now that his son is part of Troop 33 that we’d all been in. He told us though, that there had been a fair amount of neighborhood opposition. On the north side of the creek, there’s accessible space between homes and the waterway, but on the south bank, homes directly abut. Downstream of Flower Street for just under a mile before the confluence with the Santa Ana, there’s very little right-of-way, with homes directly adjacent to the creek.

David had repeatedly mentioned various homeowner opposition, and as we were speaking, looking downstream from the bridge, one of them drove up. The woman pulled over, but left her prius running, as she sat in her driver’s seat and lectured us on how diligently the neighbors had worked to keep the creek inaccessible. She spoke at length about issues with homeless, gangs… and how the police can’t access the area to respond to these issues. I was thinking of trying to point out that bike access would mean that police, too, could have access… but David and I merely acknowledged that she was bringing up important issues. It wasn’t the place and time to confront.

I guess I should be (and am) grateful that this part of Santiago wasn’t paved with concrete, but I was struck by how dry the terrain there was. Well upstream of the site, there’s a dam at Irvine Lake. There were hardly any storm drains entering the creek, and no water on the surface. While it’s not uncommon for southland tributaries to be dry during the drier parts of the year, I wished that creek had a little more wetness… so it could be a little more recognizable as a waterway… and hopefully get a little more respect. Good luck to Dave and the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance in their efforts.

Dry Santiago Creekbed

Dry Santiago Creekbed

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§ 13 Responses to Walking Santiago Creek in Santa Ana

  • Thanks for this. When I was as student at Chapman University, I took walks along part of Santiago Creek near Hart Park & Santiago Creek. I think I may have even done some volunteer work with the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance. It’s a beautiful natural area that is definitely worth taking care of.

  • Great to see this! Thanks Dave and Joe for doing another educational walk down the creek. I have enjoyed many a run along the creek with Dave and other neighbors who enjoy having access to this natural resource. The greenway and trail is a natural link between the 7 parks found along the creek. And walking people along the creek is about the best way to educate the public about the many possibilities of this scenic 12+ mile long greenway – from the rural foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, to this more urban part in North Santa Ana. Unfortunately, most people in OC hardly notice it as they drive over it on the freeways!

    Since founding the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance in 1990, I have led hundreds of walks along the creek…. from university students, (Danny Bradfield from Chapman U. no doubt was one of our volunteers!), Council members, visiting River Network members, National Park staff, City Staffers, school kids and adjacent neighbors. One memorable walk along the creek was to show it to my friend Lewis McAdams, founder of the Friends of the Los Angeles River. Pretty much everyone agrees that the Santiago Creek Greenway is a great idea. Many people have helped make its evolving concept become a reality…. one section at a time. Visit our website and help out where and when you can!
    Thanks! (www.santiagogreenway.org)

  • […] I grew up not far from there, and know the area where Santiago Creek meets the Santa Ana River, I confess that I am not familiar with the actual threatened area, called the Sully Miller […]

  • Paul Apodaca says:

    This is a lot of false information being laid out as an agenda. Much of the property in this area is privately owned and what is left over is not large enough for a bike path, a horse path, a dirt bike path, or any of the ideas folks have proposed over the years. The bottom line is these ideas are promoted by folks who don’t live along the creek, it is an advocacy for folks to invade a neighborhood and people’s back yards.

    The rate of burglaries and fires along the creek has increased and this idea will only invite more folks from outside of these neighborhoods to invade them. Advocates for this process have spread false information that has been refuted by many agencies. Don’t be fooled.

    • Joe Linton says:

      Paul – your language is interesting – restoring public access to a creek is something you perceive as an “invasion”

      • Paul Apodaca says:

        Your inquiry only works if you falsify the information. This is private property, not public land being restored to public access. You are starting from a false premise and that invalidates all that comes after.

        The only way your question/argument works is if we accept the idea that all land was at one time public land because there were no deeds, etc.., and “restoring public access” meant being able to access now-private land as a “restoration.”

        That means I am moving into your backyard tomorrow so I can camp out on “public land” to which I have restored “public access.”

        This has been tried many times over the past 40 years and runs afoul of the private property issue each time. The promoters of this initiative have falsely claimed that public agencies and private agencies are prepared to support the enormous cost of acquiring, building, and maintaining this new proposal. The agencies so named have already refuted this.

        So, yes, planning on occupying someone’s private property is a good definition of invasion. I would bet you would call the cops if you looked out your window and found people in your backyard.

  • Paul Apodaca says:

    Joe Linton thinks people coming into your backyard to enjoy themselves is “restoring public access”? Would you please post this common sense reply to your question rather than imply the question is not answered in my comment or in this response?

  • Save Santiago Creek Alliance says:

    RESEARCH NOTICE:
    The pro bike trail advocates falsely claim that the bike trail will reduce crime along the Santiago Creek. No research evidence was presented to make such a claim. “The existence of the trail has had little, if any, effect on crime and vandalism experienced by adjacent property owners” (Zarker, G., Bourey, J., Puncochar, B., and Lagerway, P. Evaluation of the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime. Seattle Engineering Department. May, 1987, p. 3). No studies have found any decrease in crime by building a bike trail. In fact, a bike trail will increase pedestrian traffic since pedestrians outnumber bicyclists on pathways 75% to 20% (Ragland, David R., Safe Transportation Research & Education Center (SafeTrec), Jones, Michael G., Alta Planning. Prepared for Caltrans, February 2010).

    • Jessica Hall says:

      I have my own research notice, an appendix chapter from a Greenway Planning document that I produced:
      http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22350595/BGP_4_Appendix_2.14.11.pdf
      Please read pages 93-95 for another view of greenways and public safety. Your quote from the Seattle study doesn’t support the idea that it will in fact increase crime, and as noted in the link above, police officers observed that the absence of motor vehicles from the trail contributed to the lower crime rates on the trail than on the street. That said, we have experienced issues with vandalism and theft on Ballona Creek, particular to more isolated areas. The more we face creeks and trails rather than turn our backs to them, the more people who use these greenways as an alternative to driving, the safer these spaces will be.

      One consistent thing is that residents adjacent to these types of corridors fear that opening up access will bring in crime. I hope that the information in the chapter above can help to bring some perspective to that concern.

      • Jessica Hall says:

        There’s also a statistical comparison of crime on trails versus other land uses at that link.

  • Save Santiago Creek Alliance says:

    Thank you Jessica. I have taken the time to read your research and it is exceedingly well done. However, the research is not applicable to the current situation. Contrary to the Santiago Creek, the Ballona Creek is an extremely wide flood channel (up to a mile wide in portions) that was mostly cemented in, is so wide as to permit the building of soccer fields and restaurants along the banks, and only a very few homes actually sat on the banks of the Ballona Creek. In contrast, on the Santiago Creek in Santa Ana, the homes sit directly on the banks of an all natural, wooded greenbelt. The width of the Santiago Creek is less than 1/8 of a mile in Santa Ana. To actually build the proposed bike path, the use of eminent domain and prescriptive easement would have to be used. The pouring of cement in a thin greenbelt goes against public policy and your own research that sought to remove the cement and ugliness of past years and return the area into a beautiful green area. The bike trail along Santiago Creek would do exactly what your research intended to repair and avoid, i.e., the destruction of the trees and wildlife.

  • Save Santiago Creek Alliance says:

    RESEARCH NOTICE #2 The ultimate goal of the pro bike trail organizations, the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance (http://www.santiagogreenway.org/) and the Neighbors for the Santiago Creek Bike Trail, is to develop a bike path from Flower Street through the golf course to the Santa Ana River bike path. The pro bike trail groups are using a divide and conquer approach. The desire to do such is evidenced by the following three emails: from Bruce Bauer, Esquire dated 05-24-20111; from Mark Lindsey dated 05-25-20112; and from Mark Lindsey dated 06-22-20113.

    Email 1. From: Lindsey, Mark To: Bruce Bauer, Esq ; David Schmidt Cc: Mark Lindsey Sent: Wed, May 25, 2011 11:30 am Subject: RE: Strategy – Santiago Creek Bike Trail Extension to the Santa Ana River I would like to propose an evolutionary approach in extending this trail. Create a paved Class 1 Trail to Flower Street. [sic] Will allow for all types of bikes, and strollers, and those who need to travel on foot only on paved surfaces: 1. Create a dirt hiking, MTB trail from Flower Street down to the Santa Ana River. This could even run down the middle of the creek if needed (should be an easy project if there is buy in). Would be great for hikers and trail runners. 2. Create a paved Class 1 Trail from Flower Street down to the Santa Ana River (would take a lot of planning and engineering work and some time to construct). The above 3 could be done in a short period of time 1 year.

    Email 2. From: Mark Lindsey To: Gregory R. Nord, Transportation Analyst Strategic Planning, OCTA, OCTA Biking Coordinator ; Pete Van Nuys, Director OC Bicycle Coalition ; Laura Scheper, OCTA Community Relations Specialist; Bruce Bauer, Esq ; David W Schmid ; Custrel Sent: Thu, May 26, 2011 5:12 pm Subject: OCTA & OCBC Support – Santiago Creek Bike Trail Extension to the Santa Ana River Hi Mr. Nord (OCTA Biking Coordinator) and Pete (Director – OCBC), Our organization plans to meet with Gerardo Mouet, Executive Director City of Santa Ana Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency to discuss and explore the options of extending this trail under the 5 Fwy/Bristol to Fisher Park on Flower (travel down Memory Ln to SA River) and eventually to further extend it down the creet [sic] to the Santa Ana River as a Class 1 Bike Trail.

    Email 3. From: Mark Lindsey Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 10:38 PM To: Diego Teran, Park Santiago Neighborhood Association; President Béa Tiritilli, Park Santiago NA; Vice President Paul DePersis, Park Santiago NA ; strish@pacbell.net ; Treasurer Candice Vance, Park Santiago NA; Secretary: Thomas Cartney, Park Santiago NA Cc: Bruce Bauer, Esq; Shirley Grindle ; johnmoore2889@sbcglobal.net; David Schmid ; Ted M Endres, Esquire & Teacup Love Antiques; Art Pedroza, Santa Ana Business Association; pderry@cox.net; Debbie Muise, Morrison Park NA ; Emscandrett@aol.com; Rita Derry Subject: Re: PSNA Mtg on Bike path connecting Park Santiago, West Floral Park, Floral Park, & Morrison Park … Note: The Long Term goal is to have the creek trail run the way to the Golf Course in the Santa Ana River. The interim goal is the 0.25 mile creek segment to connect to the new path on Memory Lane to the Santa Ana River. This could get done now if we pull together and guide or elected officials to do the right thing for the greater good of the many.

  • Paul Apodaca says:

    The documentation shows this is not a few citizens thinking how to improve their own neighborhood but a small group of folks who have ties to the building industry, lawyers who specialize in land seizures, and folks wishing to build tributes to themselves with public money. It is a group of folks who say they are for the public good and at the same time advertised they have already had a meeting and voted to name their proposed trail after one of their members.

    These folks think they are very smart and know how to manipulate the government and public opinion to get what this group wants.

    No Municipal, County, State, or Federal agency currently has a plan to develop the section of the Santiago Creek in question for a bike trail. All government agencies that have looked into this have rejected it.

    This is wholly made up by the advocates who hope to pressure government officials into making a plan that fulfills their ambitions.

    They want to “pave paradise to put up a parking lot” and the history of the upper reaches of the bike trail already proves their promises will not come true.

    There are some very devoted individuals who have been telling folks for a long time that they have worked privately to clean up the upstream sections of the trail, repair walls, get rid of waste, chase out hoodlums, etc., all funded by themselves, as the bike trail did not prevent any of this and there was no increase in government funds to do this work or security. In other words, the experiment was had upstream already and it indicates the promises for the rest of the creek will not come true.

    And then there is the whole point that this is private property being discussed, not public property and no easement will be held viable for recreational usage. It is set up for a land grab and development project to be named after one of their own members. The public needs to be diligent and look up all of this info and not be mislead.

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