Oft-used Runyon Canyon trail access point closed; City continues talks to acquire land

Flickr via Ryan Vaarsi

Hikers come to an expansive overview in Runyon Canyon

Hikers of one of Los Angeles' most popular trails might have to work a little harder to get up the hill. Runyon Canyon's Solar Drive access point gate was permanently locked Wednesday.

The shuttered entrance is part of a 22-acre plot of private land owned by Fort Ashford Funds.  The company has issued a statement saying it has built an alternative route so people "can continue to enjoy the upper scenic trail."

NBC Los Angeles reports that hikers will have to take a nearby set of stairs to access the canyon - a  more difficult route than the previous one, according to some hikers.

“I think it’s stupid,” Tracy Elizabeth told NBC. “This trail’s been here for years.”

If you've never hiked Runyon Canyon yourself, you've probably seen it as a backdrop in celebrity photos.

Everyone from Nicole Kidman to Orlando Bloom and Nicole Richie have used the park to walk their dogs or hike with their kids. Thousands of locals frequent the massive park to stay in shape or hike with friends.

Flyers posted at the canyon encouraged hikers to call Councilman Tom LaBonge to protest the closing. It urges them to tell LaBonge they don't want to see "Runyon carved up," and said that the wooden bypass built for hikers will become "unstable" and may eventually fall apart.

Fort Ashford Funds Managing Member Frank Kavanaugh said portions of their property have been adopted by the public over the years. He said the hillside and path have eroded, blurring trail lines and resulting in parts of their private property being used  "unknowingly by hikers as a public trail."

Kavanaugh added that since taking over the property about two years ago, the company has improved it - especially the home they own on the vast estate.

"When we took possession of the property in late 2011, the doors and windows were boarded up, the interior was covered with graffiti and the Hollywood Police Department reported ongoing gang and drug related activities in the house," Kavanaugh said.

Fort Ashford and LaBonge's office are negotiating a deal where the city would acquire about 14 acres of the property to expand Runyon Canyon Park. LaBonge said in a statement that these discussions are "on-going."

"I am determined to resolve the trail issue in Runyon Canyon to the park’s benefit," he said in a written statement earlier this month.  "I appreciate your patience as we work through this process."

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