Rubio Canyon Improvement Project
The Rubio Canyon Preserve Improvement Project is a multi-benefit project that will increase public access in the San Gabriel Mountains by extending the Altadena Crest Trail (ACT) across the Preserve and improving several existing historic trails that link to the ACT. The Project includes a new environmental education center with direct access to the ACT via a new trailhead. The center will include a LEED certified, sustainable building, outdoor classroom and demonstration native plant garden, and will provide environmental educational and interpretive programs to diverse communities.
The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy (AFC) and its partners preserved 41 acres in Rubio Canyon between 2009 and 2011. Located in the Altadena foothills, and backing up to the San Gabriel National Forest, the canyon is a key link in a regional trails system. It also forms part of an important corridor for wildlife.
The Preserve features steep chaparral and oak woodland habitat that has been significantly impacted by road building and leveling of prospective building sites. Though compact in size it is a gem of varying landscapes, views of rugged mountains and canyons, shaded creeks, and the vast urbanized valley below.
The system of old roads and volunteer-built trails provides access routes through the preserve, though some of the old grading is still triggering slope instability and erosion. AFC has led efforts to manage invasive plants and protect and encourage native species.
The goals of AFC are to continue to restore the natural habitat and unique native vegetation of the site, correct the damage caused by earlier road and building site grading, improve a trail system that is appropriate and sustainable for access to the steep canyons and narrow ridges, and improve existing buildings and sites to provide visitor-serving facilities for environmental education and nature appreciation. Significant studies and preliminary plans have been prepared to define the project.
The site is adjacent to the route of the regional Altadena Crest Trail, and the AFC envisions an east-west multi-use route for the trail through the Preserve that would eliminate the current detour on local streets for the multi-use route.
AFC also envisions a hiking-only north-south Altadena Crest Trail route that would connect to a historic trail that extends through San Gabriel National Forest land up the ridge to the Sam Merrill Trail that is the continuation of the Altadena Crest Trail route to the west.
These trails would provide two loops through the Preserve of approximately to accommodate local hikes to support environmental education and nature experience, in addition to the through connections.
An old cabin is situated along the public road at the base of the hill where the multi-use trail would emerge. It serves as a meeting space and storage area for Preserve stewardship and trail volunteers. AFC’s goal is to improve it to be a public environmental education center with native plant nursery behind.
An abandoned residence that was built on a steep cliff above the cabin threatens to topple down on it. AFC will demolish the house, stabilize the steep slope and convert the former building pad into a gathering spot for environmental education, focused on youth and families. The objective is to not only teach them about the plants, animals, geology, hydrology, and natural processes, but get them involved in protection and restoration, and learn how much joy there is to be had in nature.
The current steep driveway and cut slope below the teetering old house will be reconfigured into a gentler gradient multi-use trail and restored natural habitat.
The eastern part of this multi-use trail connection would involve an approximately 100 foot bridge over a steep canyon. This would allow the restoration of old roads cut into steep slopes that currently accommodate the Altadena Crest Trail east of the Preserve that are failing, causing serious erosion and water quality impacts in the riparian corridor below.
Rubio Canyon Preserve has just the right size of land and trail system, variety of landscapes, opportunities for healing of prior damage, and proximity to urban areas to be an ideal place for the uninitiated to be introduced to the edge of the wilderness. The envisioned improvements will allow AFC to greatly expand its’ current mission and outreach efforts to include schools, clubs, church groups and the general public.