Most of the time when you hear about an Eagle Scout project in a National Forest, it’s a reason for uncontroversial celebration – the Scouts have improved countless outdoor areas around the country with signage, benches, and trail-work over the years – but a recently announced project at Altadena’s Cobb Estate has caused a bit of an outcry among local hikers.
The Forest Service told the Pasadena Star News about the plan on Tuesday and it seems innocuous enough – the Eagle Scouts want to repair a 10-foot section of the already existing Cobb Estate gate and a 20-foot section of damaged wrought iron fence that would help keep hikers out of an area damaged by fire. The repairs would be done for free and all labor provided by the Scouts, and according to the Forest Service the restored gate would not be locking. But later on in the article, the Star News mentions a Forest Service management plan for the property, which includes “reducing ready access by after-hour users.” Based on other articles by the Altadena Patch and Curbed, it seems there is a bit of confusion as to whether or not that gate would lock, and if so – when it would be locked and who would be locking it.
Locals jumped on the public comment period, saying the Forest Service was trying to restrict access to public land and questioning the legality of the action, and now it seems like the Forest Service may just end up dropping the project altogether.
I’m sure the Forest Service was well-intentioned in this project – and if the gate restoration was aesthetic I would be supportive, too – but I’m of the mind that in most cases, trails should be as accessible as possible. Unless there’s a legitimate safety or environmental issue, an open trailhead is an inviting trailhead. And if the gate was actually locked, if someone really wanted to get in I’m sure they could find a way – I’m sure many readers have hopped their share of gates during their hiking lives with few consequences of note.
The Cobb Estate is the trailhead for Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point, as well as hikes further inside the Angeles National Forest. I’ll note here that Echo Mountain is an especially spectacular place to be at sunset when the stars come out and the city lights come on below – a view that could be against-the-rules if the gate comes up.