The City Project at Center for Law in the Public Interest, together with the private firms of Reed Smith and English Munger & Rice, have filed a complaint to preserve public access to the trails in historic Millard Canyon that begins in the Angeles National Forest and ends at the Arroyo Seco in Altadena. Property owners in the gated La Viña enclave have sought to cut off public access to the trails by posting “No Trespassing” signs and harassing hikers and equestrians. The suit names La Viña Homeowners Association, the County of Los Angeles, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as defendants.
The trails have been used by the public for millennia, beginning with the Native Americans who traveled seasonally through the canyon from the mountains to the plains along the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River. In the 1820s, Millard Canyon was known as Church Canyon because the lumber to build La Placita Catholic Church was brought from the canyon to the original Pueblo de Los Angeles, the birth place of the City. La Placita (now also known as Our Lady Queen of Angels Church) was the first church built in Los Angeles and is now in El Pueblo Historic Monument. Robert Owens, a slave who bought his freedom and moved to Millard Canyon around 1850, used local trails to get firewood and building materials down to the U.S. Army post near the Los Angeles harbor. Owen Brown, son of abolitionist John Brown, moved to Altadena after surviving his father’s raid on a government arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859. Owen Brown was buried on a peak overlooking Millard Canyon.
Plaintiffs Marietta Kruells and Karina Macias are members of the public and taxpaying residents of the County concerned with the obstruction of their right to access, use and travel on the open space and trails.
The suit seeks to keep the trails open for all, and to preserve the rich historical and cultural legacy of Millard Canyon and the beauty of the site. Los Angeles is park poor. The trails are needed for hiking and horse back riding, to improve human health through recreation, to promote spiritual and environmental values of stewardship of the earth, and for equal access to public resources, whether or not one can afford to live in a secluded gated enclave. Plaintiff Save the Altadena Trails filed a similar suit on July 19, 2005, represented by the law firm of Monroe & Zinder. The County of Los Angeles also filed a suit on July 21, 2005.