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NPS shuttles to serve SoCal mountain parklands

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  • 8/30 Los Angeles Daily
    Published Saturday, August 30, 2003, in the Los Angeles Daily News Shuttle headed for parkland Transit to target Santa Monica Mountains By Kerry Cavanaugh
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2003
      Published Saturday, August 30, 2003, in the Los Angeles Daily News

      Shuttle headed for parkland
      Transit to target Santa Monica Mountains

      By Kerry Cavanaugh
      Staff Writer

      Next summer traffic-weary Valley hikers and sunbathers will be able
      to hop a bus to Zuma Beach, the Backbone Trail, Malibu Creek State
      Park and other hot spots in the Santa Monica Mountains.

      The National Park Service will launch the Heart of the Park shuttle
      system to transport people along a 20-mile loop through the Santa
      Monica Mountains National Recreation Area -- the nation's most
      visited national park.

      The goal is to cut traffic and parking problems on remote rural
      roads while opening up the national park to carless Angelenos.

      "We have the ability now to make mountains accessible to people in
      the inner city, especially the San Fernando Valley," said Woody
      Smeck, superintendent of the national recreation area.

      "And it's the environmentally right thing to do in terms of the
      message of when you're in national park or a national recreation
      area, consider leaving your car at home," Smeck added.

      The $3 round-trip shuttle will run on the weekends at 30-minute
      intervals. Visitors can park at trailheads or the Malibu Creek State
      Park parking lot and catch the shuttle. The system also connects to
      Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus line 161, which runs from
      Canoga Park to Westlake Village, and line 434, which runs from Union
      Station to Malibu.

      That MTA connection is crucial to open up the parkland to youths,
      the elderly and people who do not drive, said Bart Reed, executive
      director with The Transit Coalition.

      "We just don't have a lot of transit to recreation," Reed said. "We
      spent literally hundreds of millions buying the land in the Santa
      Monicas, and here's the tangible piece connecting people and the
      parks."

      The Heart of the Park Shuttle will cost about $250,000 a year --
      with roughly $100,000 a year collected from riders. The shuttle is a
      three-year demonstration project to see whether visitors will use
      the system. Federal dollars are covering the bulk of the cost, with
      the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chipping in as much as
      $200,000 for the first year.

      Park officials figure roughly 30,000 people will use the bus system,
      based on visitor surveys.

      The loop will take riders along Pacific Coast Highway and through
      beautiful stretches of chaparral-covered hills dotted with sandstone
      formations. Rangers will occasionally ride on shuttles to point out
      ecological and historical features.

      "We hope this shuttle system will become a destination in and of
      itself,' Smeck said.

      Some people are skeptical that Angelenos will leave their cars at
      home and choose to take the lengthy MTA bus ride to the
      shuttle. "Nobody takes the bus to hike," said Ron Webster of the
      Sierra Club's Santa Monica Mountain Task Force. "I suppose it could
      work, but I somehow feel it wouldn't necessarily get a lot of use."

      At 153,000 acres, the national recreation area is the largest urban
      national park in the world. Its 46 miles stretch along the Santa
      Monica Mountains from Point Mugu State Park to the Hollywood Bowl.
      It is the most-visited park in the nation's park system, with 33
      million people using the recreational local, state and federal
      parkland each year.

      The Park Service is increasingly looking at shuttle systems to
      handle the visitors, vehicles and air pollution in famous spots such
      as Yosemite and Zion national parks. But Santa Monica Mountains
      officials are hoping to lure more visitors, including inner-city
      families that otherwise might not have access to the parkland.

      The National Park Service has already ordered five compressed-
      natural-gas shuttle buses. Officials have selected 13 shuttle stops
      along Kanan Dume Road, Mulholland Highway, Pacific Coast Highway and
      Malibu Canyon Road, where they'll build modest, shaded bus stops and
      information kiosks.


      Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746 kerry.cavanaugh@...
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