April 15, 2021

Topanga State Park General Plan Preferred Alternative Revealed


The complexities of protecting, preserving and interpreting the scenic wildlands that comprise Topanga State Park’s natural and cultural resources still require public scrutiny.

On Tuesday, June 14, more than 60 people gathered in Stewart Hall at Temescal Gateway Park to hear a presentation by Barney Matsumoto and other members of the Southern Service Center planning team.


Topanga State Park General Plan Preferred Alternative Revealed

The General Plan for Topanga State Park is based on a matrix of management zones that will guide future uses of wildland, cultural and historical resources. No development is recommended for 8,000 acres of “Wildlands.”

Based on input received in the two previously public meetings, the planners compiled a matrix of management zones covering the entire Topanga State Park that will be used to guide future uses. The matrix includes details on the resource character and management, visitor experiences, visitor uses and range of possible features.

The largest area covering more than 8,000 acres is zoned as Wildlands, with no development recommended other than trails for hiking, biking and equestrians.

Low-level use areas were identified as the Watershed zone, protecting the slopes along the creek and Topanga Canyon Boulevard between the ocean and town, the lagoon area, and the designated cultural preserve surrounding Trippet Ranch.

Because of the high concentration of “outstanding” cultural resources, including some of the first recorded Native American sites in the region, approximately 150 acres surrounding the Trippet Ranch center will be limited to trails, use by Native Americans, cultural site stewardship and minor interpretive and educational opportunities.

One of the biggest proposed changes involves Trippet Ranch. The proposed plan recommends moving all park operations and maintenance activities to a single designated area, freeing up the stables and current ranger office for restoration to highlight the elements of a “gentleman’s ranch,” which will be designated as the Historic Zone (18 acres), a high-level use area providing interpretive and educational facilities and programs.

The Nature Center, long run by the Topanga Canyon Docents in the former skeet lodge, is still slated for restoration and renovation, a process delayed by funding problems. There is also a proposal for providing an equestrian concession and possibly some limited overnight use.

The existing campground off the Musch Trail would be retained with only vault toilets and “cold” camping, i.e., no fires allowed. An additional camping area located in the Mullholland Corridor area along the Backbone Trail is also being considered.

The Lower Topanga zone (12 acres) includes areas along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and north on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. This is designated for medium-use levels, Park staff housing, minor concession opportunities and overnight lodging.

The lagoon area (29 acres) includes the lower reach of Topanga Creek and existing remnant lagoon. The proposed plan recommends optimum lagoon restoration and no development or modifications other than infrastructure that will improve the lagoon wildlife corridor. Incorporating the Coastal Access Trail connection is also part of the plan.

It is not clear exactly what all this will mean when the goals, objectives and details for each zone is provided in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The devil is in the details. Will there be a proposal for a hydrologically functional lagoon to set the parameters for developing the associated visitor services?

How will the existing concessions, Wylie’s Bait shop, Cholada, Reel Inn and Malibu Feed Bin be incorporated?

Will the plan, developed and certified by Caltrans, State Parks and LA County Beaches and Harbors, incorporate into the EIR lagoon restoration and building a new bridge at PCH that will require major traffic control and resulting delays for commuters?

According to project manager Barney Matsumoto, State Parks hopes to release the Draft EIR in Fall 2011, with a hearing at the State Parks Commission possible in spring 2012. He recommends checking the project website, parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=25956, where the EIR will be posted, and promises that the Topanga Messenger newspaper and other local papers will be notified of the 45-day comment period.