By Allison Jarrell
Residents and visitors who utilize the San Juan Creek Trail on a daily basis to visit Doheny State Beach or travel inland to Reata Park in San Juan Capistrano will have to use detours for more than two years due to upcoming trail closures from two different construction projects.
The first infrastructure project includes improvements to the levees along a 1-mile stretch of the San Juan Creek flood control channel. Led by the County of Orange, the $33 million project aims to enhance flood protection. The project area spans San Juan and Dana Point, “running along San Juan Creek from Stonehill Drive to approximately 2,100 feet upstream on the west side of the levee and 6,000 feet upstream on the east side of the levee,” according to San Juan city staff.
The project involves “installation of sheet piles with steel anchor columns and tension cables, construction of a reinforced concrete pile cap, construction of reinforced masonry block flood walls, installation of modified guard cable fencing” and “reconstruction of the asphalt bike trail along the west side of the channel.”
Construction for the levee project is slated to begin in September 2017 and conclude in June 2019, with work hours of 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. County officials said in order to “maximize safety and accelerate work,” the San Juan Creek Trail will be closed on both sides beginning mid-September through June 2018—at least eight months.
During that time, pedestrians can use the adjacent Creekside Park walkway. Bicyclists will be directed to follow a detour from Stonehill Drive to Del Obispo Street to Mariner Drive.
A second separate project, led by the Southern California Rail Authority, involves replacing a 100-year-old railroad bridge on the east side of Descanso Park over San Juan Creek. A new bridge will be constructed to the west of the current one, which will then be demolished.
During construction of the new bridge, the bikeway that runs east of the freeway to the San Juan Creek Trail will be closed, and signage will be posted directing cyclists along the following detour route: Avenida Padre to Camino Capistrano, left on Del Obispo Street to the Trabuco Creek trail levee, and then south.
Construction for that project is slated to start in 2019, and the estimated duration is 30 months.
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved the aforementioned bikeway detour plan at its Aug. 1 meeting with a 2-1 vote. Councilwoman Pam Patterson and Councilman Brian Maryott were absent, and Mayor Kerry Ferguson voted against the detour approval, saying she wanted to “look a little bit more at how (the bridge replacement project) is being conducted.”
During the meeting, San Juan resident Mike Mathewson said he was “flabbergasted” by the proposed detour for a trail that hundreds of people use daily.
“That trail is the only way to Doheny. It’s the only way to the trails all along the coast,” Mathewson said. “And what hasn’t been brought up tonight is that it’s for two and a half years, which means it’s going to be three to four.
“I hear your two options that you’re weighing tonight—I would say that you should have a third and that is to go back to the lead agency and say, ‘No, come back with a new plan that stages this construction somehow to minimize the impact,’” Mathewson continued. “I’m going to make the assumption that they don’t know what this trail is used for.”
Former Mayor Larry Kramer, an avid cyclist, wrote a letter to the Council stating that he dislikes the options for cycling during the closure, but doubts “the city has many legal choices.”
“I dare anyone from City Council to ride a bike along Camino Capistrano and Del Obispo,” Kramer wrote, adding that he may end up riding through parking lots when possible.
Kramer also suggested the Council request that the railroad authority build a pedestrian/bicycle bridge next to the railroad bridge as part of the replacement project.
During the Council meeting, Public Works and Utilities Director Steve May said staff would discuss the suggestion with the railroad authority.
For more information on the county’s levee improvement project, visit www.ocflood.com. For further information on the bridge replacement project, see the Council’s Aug. 1 agenda report at www.sanjuancapistrano.org.