Steve Netherby, San Clemente
When I read the letter to the editor, “Protect the Ridge Route Trail,” in the Jan. 31-Feb. 6 edition of the San Clemente Times requesting signage and fencing on the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail (called the Rancho San Clemente Trail on the city trail map), I was, to put it melodramatically, horrified.
I immediately thought of Long Island, where my wife and I lived before we moved to San Clemente 46 years ago. At the entrance to every park and beach there, instead of welcoming, enjoy-your-park signage, we invariably encountered an oversized sign trumpeting, in big type, warnings against doing all the things you shouldn’t do in a park. Before entering a public beach, we often had to negotiate a chain-link fence. Our enjoyment of those places set aside for recreation and natural beauty were tamped down before we even stepped inside.
When we first arrived in San Clemente, it’s true that I had to climb a barbed-wire fence to access the dirt ranch road that is now the paved Ridgeline Trail. The friendliness of the horseback cowhands there let me know the fence was there to keep cattle in, not keep me out. I was stunned by the expansive beauty of our backcountry and the views the road provided of mountains, islands, ocean and coast. Just as valuable to me was the freedom I felt there. Here was a place a person’s spirit could soar and imagination could roam free. Today, the trail is paved and the fences have disappeared, so many more can experience that same soaring freedom.
There’s already adequate, tasteful, non-buzz-killing signage at the entrance to and along the Ridgeline Trail outlining potential dangers and proper usage. But “warnings of sharp, blind turns, steep grades and speed limits” advocated by Ms. Barnes’s HOA? Fencing that mirrors that along the Beach Trail? The trail is wide, its “sharp, blind turns” and “steep grades” are speed-limiting enough for its self-propelled activities. And I would bet those trail users I share the trail with whenever I hike or cycle it would echo with me the words of the old cowboy song, “Don’t fence me in!”