Head to Runyon Canyon Park now while you can. On April 1, the city will close the parking hiking trails for four months to fix a 90-year-old water pipe.
“Public safety is the overarching reason to begin immediate work on this critical infrastructure project,” said Councilman David Ryu, 4th District. “This temporary closure, while inconvenient, is absolutely necessary in order to keep the surrounding neighborhoods safe by improving the park’s fire and flood protection systems.”
The closure was announced last Wednesday. Throughout the week, hikers stopped at the trailhead signposts to read about the closure for the water system improvement project. Officials said they need to close the trails to replace a six-inch pipe that runs through the park, which is also a source of water for firefighters protecting the park and surrounding areas.
Runyon Canyon Park is one of the most popular and “most beloved” parks in the city with approximately 3,500 visitors per week. Officials said the closure is a “necessary inconvenience” that is “one of the facts of life of living with aging infrastructure.”
“The hiking trails are not just used by local residents, but visitors across the city and around the world and this will certainly be a major inconvenience,” Ryu said. “However, the temporary closure of all hiking trails will allow additional crews to work faster and finish sooner in time for the summer and fall fire season. And most importantly, it keeps the public away from the equipment and open trenches.”
The park will be closed from April 1 to July 31, but it will reopen earlier if work is completed ahead of schedule. Marty Adams, LADWP senior assistant general manager, said closing the trails completely, instead of leaving them partially open for hikers, cuts construction time in half and minimizes safety risks. Crews will work seven days per week in three staging areas. On weekdays, crews will work from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“We’ll make every effort to deliver this project as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” he said. “When we’re done, we want to leave behind a park that’s better than what we have now, and that’s our commitment from DWP.”
Adams said there is no easy way to replace infrastructure that was installed before existing roads and homes were in place. But he said the project was necessary after at least 34 breaks in the park in the last 10 years on “one of our worst-rated pipelines in the system.”
LAFD deputy chief Chuck Butler said replacing the water pipe will improve the current service capability of 400 gallons of water per minute to more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
While the new pipe is installed, the park will also be restored and improved.
“The repaving of the existing fire road will improve access for our fire engines and ambulances in the case of a brush fire, or more frequently, a medical emergency here in the hills,” Butler said.
LADWP officials said there will be little if any noticeable difference after construction is complete.
“The beauty of DWP infrastructure is that it’s hidden under the ground for the most part, and this once again will be hidden under the ground,” said Steve Cole with LADWP.
Adams said LADWP understands that water infrastructure is not the main focus of visitors.
“But maintaining a functioning water infrastructure system is as important as the trees, hiking paths and greenery,” he said. “So while this park closure is a temporary inconvenience for some, its benefits will not only protect the park we love from fire and floods, it will improve water quality for the surrounding community as well.”
Ryu explained that the city wants to act instead of reacting to a major pipe break, which can make the project much more difficult to complete. He described the project as “deferred maintenance” that has been needed for a long time.
“The last thing we want is for in the peak season in the summer for a pipe to burst, for a big sink hole to form in the middle of the park, for us to close the park in the middle of the summer, or worse yet, the water going to our neighborhoods and destroying homes and, God forbid, someone getting hurt,” Ryu said. “I really apologize because this is going to be tremendously inconvenient for [the public]. But this needs to be done.”
Ryu pointed to a water pipe that broke in December in the Hollywood Hills on Appian Way that caused a mudslide, damaged two homes and left dozens without service.
“If we don’t work quickly to make these repairs [at Runyon Canyon], we could face similar danger, not just in the park, but in surrounding neighborhoods as well,” he said.
Ryu said LADWP had been improving the infrastructure at Runyon Canyon on a “piecemeal basis,” but now the larger project is needed because “this is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Don Anders, vice president of Friends of Runyon Canyon, said the organization supports the closure.
Officials provided a list of alternative parks and hiking routes that Angelenos can enjoy while Runyon Canyon is closed. They include Franklin Canyon Park at 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive; Fryman Canyon Park at 8401 Mulholland Drive in Studio City; Hollywood Reservoir at 6399 Weidlake Drive; and Wilacre Park at 12601 Mulholland Drive in Studio City.
DWP officials said the estimated cost of repairs is approximately $2 million, but the savings from the improved infrastructure are expected to pay for it. The Department of Recreation and Parks will secure the gates, and security ambassadors will ensure that no one is allowed in the work areas.
The yoga field near the Fuller gate at Runyon Canyon Park will remain open throughout the construction period.
Ryu said while the construction is finished, he will work with the Department of Sanitation, LADWP and the Department of Recreation and Parks to explore if potential erosion control measures, water reclamation projects and other improvements can be implemented simultaneously.
For information on the four-month closure, call (213)367-1337, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit ladwp.com/runyoncanyon.
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