Recently, there’s been talk about a proposed greenbelt trail along a stretch of abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way in south Fullerton. An example of what such a trail might look like and how it might improve a community space can be found in Yorba Linda’s El Cajon Trail, a four-mile hiking trail that runs through the that city along a former irrigation canal.
The El Cajon pathway, Yorba Linda’s longest multipurpose trail, was “filled in after a flood made it impractical to use,” according to the TrailLink website by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The trail’s name, “El Cajon,” refers to “a Spanish and Spanish-American method of construction in which walls are made of mud rammed into a narrow boxlike frame and allowed to harden,” according to Merriam-Webster.com. This makes sense as the trail “courses through the City on a former irrigation canal that was abandoned,” according to TrailLink.
Paved next to an equestrian and jogging path, the wide trail allows walkers, bicyclists, joggers, and dog-walkers living in the surrounding neighborhoods to have an open green space in the middle of a largely suburban area with similar looking houses packed closely together.
According to the city of Yorba Linda’s website, Yorba Linda has over one hundred miles of trails “coordinated for use by hikers, bikers, and equestrians,” and “intended to enhance open space opportunities by providing non-vehicular linkages to open space areas and recreational facilities.” There are about 30 miles of horse trails and 47 miles of pedestrian and bike trails in Yorba Linda.
Starting on Bastanchury Road, rounding a corner and turning west of Rose Drive, the El Cajon Trail winds its way between houses and continues throughout the City until it reaches an end at Kellogg Drive and Mountain View Avenue. Parking at the Yorba Linda Community Center, which is centrally located between two different parts of the pathway, I walked over to the trail’s Bastanchury entrance and began hiking. A brown triangular sign at the trailhead used iconography to explain that bicyclists, walkers, and horse riders should yield to one another. I encountered only a few bikers and dogwalkers while I was on the trail, which was wide enough for me to move over and not come into contact with anybody.
Deciduous trees were starting to change to autumn colors along a wide open dirt stretch off to the left of the paved pathway. At the first street crossing at North Rose Drive, there was a dark green sign that read, “Pet Waste transmits disease; Leash and Clean up after your pet; Please keep this area clean.” For the most part, it appeared that pet owners and walkers along the trail were following these rules. There was also a mile marker sign for the highlights along the El Cajon Trail, including the Yorba Linda Community Center, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, and the Phillip S. Paxton Equestrian Center where competitive horse shows are held on occasion.
Walking along the El Cajon Trail, I noticed several small private farms mixed in with the surrounding homes. One farm had electric fans built into a fence to keep livestock cool during some of the warmer months. When I walked by, there was a horse poking its head over a white fence with a protective covering over its ears to keep it warm and protected against the cool morning air. Another farm bordering the trail had signs warning trail users not to feed the animals. At a farm further down the trail, the silhouette of a windmill could be seen towering over the homes in the neighborhood. It was cast in shadow and situated next to two barns, each with their own fences to keep the animals within the property.
I happened to be hiking on a dry, windy day in mid-November. The Santa Ana winds were particularly powerful, sometimes blowing sand from the adjacent dirt equestrian path into my face. However, for the most part, trail users seemed to enjoy the smoothly paved walkway, which was accessible not only to bicycles, but also wheelchairs. Moving closer to the Yorba Linda Community Center, I saw citrus trees lined in a row next to magenta bougainvillea. Morning glories were growing along a fence that provided privacy for the neighboring homes and yards.
At the Community Center, the El Cajon trail ran in a straight line along a brick wall bordering the edge of a parking lot with white fences on either side of it. The community center, which is located near Hurless Barton Park, was a good resting place because this was the only area along the trail with restrooms and water fountains. Heading east from the park, I saw a long flat stretch of the path adjacent to Imperial Highway that soon turned a corner next to a eucalyptus tree and clumps of drought-resistant grasses. Continuing around the corner, I walked over a short wooden bridge that ran over an irrigation channel. This was the Standard Pacific Corporation Recreational Trail Bridge, which was donated to the city of Yorba Linda in October 1975.
Continuing down the trail, I noticed small painted images at the bottom of a beige concrete wall. Some wall art included a mask-wearing cat chasing birds and little mice in doorways in what looked like a French village setting. These were clearly painted during the pandemic. Moving forward, towering eucalyptus trees provided shade over the path as it turned a corner, crossed a street, and wound its way behind the Richard Nixon Library. An overgrown fence behind thick trees concealed most of the museum’s gardens. However, the wings of the presidential helicopter could be seen above the fence. A strict-looking security guard wearing sunglasses guarded the helicopter. Slowing down in the area behind the helicopter, I was able to hear a tour guide talking. There was another guard posted in back of the museum where storage was kept.
The El Cajon trail continued east and passed by an equestrian center where more horses could be seen. It eventually ended around Kellogg Drive. The trail provided interesting views of cacti, drought-resistant plants growing in people’s backyards, and farm animals. There was plenty to see in the wide-open trail. If a paved greenway path can exist along an abandoned irrigation canal in these Yorba Linda neighborhoods, then south Fullerton should have one along its abandoned Union Pacific tracks, as well.
See my video report online, click HERE.
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