Global positioning will put trails on the map

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, March 4, 2007.

Valley Press Staff Writer

A global positioning system will put recreational trails throughout the Antelope Valley on the map for equestrians, bicyclists and hikers.

That is a major project - five years in the making - being worked on by the Antelope Valley Trails, Recreation and Environmental Committee in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, said Elaine Macdonald, a director of the fledgling Antelope Valley Conservancy.

The AV Trails, Recreation and Environmental group, formerly called a council, operated autonomously as a nonprofit organization since being formed in 1980 by founders Gloria Gossard and Ed Skinner.

That trails group dissolved its 501(c)(3) status in December after organization members finalized their transition to a committee under the jurisdiction of the Antelope Valley Conservancy, a grass-roots group that sprang up about a year ago, Macdonald explained. As part of the conservancy, the trails folks could no longer hold their own 501(c)(3), a status granted to nonprofit organizations by the federal government, which frees those groups from paying taxes on money they raise.

Macdonald served for the last 17 years as president of the trails group - an organization 100 members strong, with supporters from other trail and nature groups such as the Sierra Club, who donate money and time, Macdonald said.

Macdonald said she was contacted by Wendy Reed, founder and director of the conservancy, about a year ago. Reed and her handful of members set up a meeting with the trails group.

"They introduced themselves - told us what they were all about," Macdonald said.

Reed impressed the trail folks when she explained that the conservancy has "a better opportunity to have developers donate land in perpetuity for public use," with the promise to preserve those nature trails, Macdonald said. "We did not have land before."

However, the trails group is "dedicated to trail preservation in and around the Antelope Valley for equestrians, bicyclists and hikers," Macdonald said. So Reed's proposal seemed to match the trails group ideals. In fall 2006, the five-member trails board voted in favor of the change.

"The mission is not going to change," Macdonald said. "Our volunteers are continuing to work under the Antelope Valley Conservancy."

"We applaud AVTREC's long heritage of open space advocacy," Reed said. Furthermore, she added, those trails help maintain wildlife corridors.

The mapping project includes Barrel Springs trail and "all the connections from the cities," Macdonald said. The project will take five years to complete because "we have to walk it," she added. "Some of it we may be able to do by car."

Leona Valley resident Marcy Watton, an AVTREC member, is working on the portion of trails in her neck of the woods.

"Just by default," Watton said, "because those are the trails I know. It's a large task, (covers) a vast area. It started in Acton and Agua Dulce, and they got their project done."

Watton is seeking volunteers to assist her with the project. So far she has four people out on horseback, mapping trails.

"I could use at least a dozen. Anyone interested in helping is more than welcome to contact me." She said volunteers could reach her at (661) 270-0333.

"Once trails are actually mapped," Watton said, "they will be included in the county's general plan. That should preserve trail access."