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TRAIL NEARING ITS END; BACKBONE NOW NEEDS 6 MILES.

Byline: Mark Langton Special to the Daily News

The newest addition to the Backbone Trail was officially dedicated last week, bringing the total of the proposed 70-mile trail to 64 miles.

The 2.7-mile section, known as Zuma Canyon, heads northwest from the Backbone Trailhead parking area off Kanan-Dume Road, located at the first tunnel north of the Pacific Coast Highway (1).

``It was a major extension, and now we are on the home stretch, definitely,'' said Linda Palmer of Calabasas, vice president of the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. ``It represents the efforts of many, many people over a long time.''

It's a beautiful course that meanders past numerous streams and a waterfall in a lush riparian-oak habitat, connecting with Zuma Ridge Motorway fire road, seven-tenths of a mile south of Encinal Canyon Road.

One of the marquee attractions in the National Park Service's Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the Backbone Trail - which traverses the mountain chain from Point Mugu to Will Rogers State Historical Park in Pacific Palisades - was elevated to star status by some of those in attendance at the Jan. 14 ribbon cutting.

``The SMMNRA is a much better attraction than Disneyland or Universal City,'' said Bob Chandler, president of the National Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for national parks. Of course, Chandler harbors a certain amount of bias, having been the recreation area's first superintendent.

For more than a year, workers and volunteers have removed brush to clear the track and install two bridges, several drainage culverts and retaining walls to control erosion.

The dedication ceremony was attended by National Park Service and State Parks representatives, as well as U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Woodland Hills). Sherman's efforts have resulted in several million dollars in funding for completion of the Backbone Trail by acquiring more private land in its proposed path.

``I'm no biologist, but I can be certain that procuring funds for the Santa Monica Mountains is as complex as any ecosystem on the planet,'' Sherman said.

Completion of the trail was largely possible because of a $40,000 grant provided by American Airlines through the National Park Foundation. Through a unique program called ``Miles for Trails,'' American Airlines travel members can donate their frequent-flyer miles to trail projects around the country.

``Because of generous support from corporate sponsors . . . the National Park Service, along with other agencies and nonprofit organizations, has been able to move forward in closing a critical gap in the Backbone Trail,'' said Art Eck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

In January 1998, the federal government allocated $6.5 million for the completion of the entire trail. Costs include purchase of private property needed to connect the Backbone Trail, or BBT, from Zuma Ridge to the next areas of public open space to the west, the closest being Circle X Ranch and Point Mugu State Park. Funds are also earmarked for construction of the trail itself.

In September, then-Gov. Pete Wilson rejected a bill that would have taken more than 160 acres of the former Frank Capra estate to help bridge the six-mile gap in the BBT.

The Zuma Canyon section of the Backbone Trail effectively extends the popular Solstice and Latigo canyons section of the BBT, which heads eastward 6-3/4 miles from Kanan-Dume Road to Corral Canyon.

As for future projects, additional construction is slated for the northwest advancement of the BBT from Zuma Ridge, but exact dates are not yet known.

Outdoors Editor Brett Pauly contributed to this article.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO (Color) Mountain bikers pass along the newly opened Zuma Canyon section of the Backbone Trail west of Malibu's Kanan-Dume Road.

Mark Langton/Special to the Daily News
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 21, 1999
Words:620
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