Flowing by the Fairways 2: The Santa Ana River’s Riverview Golf Course

March 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

Egrets along the Santa Ana River in the middle of Santa Ana's Riverview Golf Course.

Kudos to Jessica on yesterday’s post about reaching détente between golf courses and healthy creeks. Her examples are instructive, but there’s at least one more somewhat interesting local example – on the Santa Ana River in Orange County. I alluded to it near the end of this earlier Santiago Creek post; the River View Golf Course contains Santiago Creek’s confluence with the Santa Ana River. It’s located near the intersection of the 5, 22, and 57 Freeways, not far from Anaheim Stadium (map below.) « Read the rest of this entry »


Santiago Avenue Bridge Mini-Park in Santa Ana

August 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

One of two identical commemorative metal plaques on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge, located in the city of Santa Ana

I’ve been spending some time with family down in Orange County… and I got a chance to explore Santiago Creek. I did this exploring mostly by bike. It was actually really great to get my mind off of things and just follow an urban creek upstream and down. I love to bike around on streets and anticipate where I might be able to access a creek next, looking for what sort of condition it’s in, how access, bicycling, reinforcement, humans, critters, vegetation, etc. all are working or not for the waterway.

I did a great deal of this sort of exploration a lot in the late 1990s when I was first setting up the monthly Down By The River walks series for Friends of the L.A. River, and then quite a bit in 2005 when I was working on my book Down by the Los Angeles River. I recommend it highly – exploring creeks, I meant, not my book – though I recommend that too.

Whether you’ve got a concrete channel or a natural creek in your neighborhood, explore it – see where it flows to (often a journey from urban to even more highly degraded and concreted… until you get to the ocean) and where it flows from (of ten a journey from concrete to natural foothills streams.) It can give one a sense of place… often it takes one to the older parts of a place – great historic neighborhoods and bridges, other depression-era public works… sometimes just a slice, a sort of transect, through neighborhoods, including great places and neglected ones.

Santiago Creek is a tributary of the Santa Ana River. Santiago runs mostly through the cities of Santa Ana and Orange. I wrote about Santiago Creek briefly here, and ran Joel Robinson’s Santiago alert here. There’s also the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance that’s working to protect the creek. I am going to write more extensively about my recent Santiago Creek explorations soon, but I thought I’d get something posted quickly about one feature I encountered.

Here’s a video I shot on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge:

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A Dangerous Journey

March 26, 2011 § 6 Comments

Rainy weather always puts me in mind of the historical oral histories taken down by James Reagan in 1914. They highlight how dramatic, dangerous, and long cross-county travel could be – travel that today makes us irate and grumpy when it take a few hours.

The New River mentioned here is the San Gabriel River, in its “new” channel. It shifted course in the 1860s. S.P. is Southern Pacific (rail road). The trip, 25 miles from Downey to Santa Ana.

The tale of Tom Hutchinson:

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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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