Well, 3.5 Years Later I Guess I Can Finally Stop Saying That Councilman Tom LaBonge Is A Nonresponsive Disinterested Bastard

Via The Eastsider Los Angeles blog I just learned that Councilman Tom LaBonge has proposed a reservists program for city parks.

Oh, really Tom? Come up with that all by yerself now didja? Of course he didn’t. He gives credit — and rightly so —  to the LAPD’s Reserve Officers and  Explorer Scouts programs as his inspiration. But who he shoulda been inspired by was… yeah, that’s right: me. Or at least the me that suggested a similar proposal when the both of us were some 1,278 days younger.

Fast-backward with me to summer 2005. Waaaay back then I was a member of the Mountain Bike Unit, an all-volunteer group whose members, after successful completion of a pretty intensive training, go out and patrol many of the popular hiking and biking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. Serving essentially as extended eyes/ears for the few state rangers responsible for upholding the law out there, more often than not we weren’t required to do much more than ride our bikes around in our mustard yellow jerseys pointing out if someone was sitting in poison oak or asking people to leash up their lose dogs or put out their fucking cigarettes, but occasionally we’d have to radio in an injury or a misplaced person.

Anyway, at that time, given the ongoing sadness of mountainbiking being a crime in the hills of Griffith and Elysian parks I thought to myself what a good idea it might be to develop some sort of similar corps for those areas. Not only could a city-supported mountain bike corps pilot program  be a helpful presence on the trails in support of and in communication with the various law enforcement personnel, but we could liaison with the community and shit, showing them that not all mountainbikers are the assholes a lot of people like to think we are. All, that and  I’d be able to ride again on the dirt around the Hollywood Hills like I last did legally when I was a pre-teen and Jimmy Carter was president.

So on August 23, 2005, when the Griffith Park masterplan was being updated and debated and  LaBonge predictably came out and said “Over my dead political career will I ever let some dirty commie mountainbikers filthy up my park and scare my constituents,”  I sat down and crafted an extensive and diplomatic  letter  (entiiiiiire text after the jump) explaining just what I was thinking to the councilman  whose district includes Griffith Park and who legend has it was born in its Bronson Canyon quarry caves and raised, depending on who you talk to, either by coyotes or the cloistered nuns who make the pumpkin bread at the nearby Monastery of the Angels.

Dear Councilman LaBonge,

As a lifelong Los Angeles resident I feel your stewardship regarding Griffith Park is to be commended and I applaud your efforts to protect such treasured open space as a recreational and educational natural resource now and for the future.

But as an L.A. native who is also a mountain cyclist, I was disheartened to learn yesterday that you are ready to sustain the lack of access I should rightfully have to Gritffith Park’s network of trails.

When I was a young boy living below the Hollywood Hills I spent many a weekend and summer’s day pedaling my singlespeed BMX bike up and down the access trails all over the area on journeys of adventure and discovery that took me up to the observatory and the Hollywood Sign, down to the Bronson Canyon caves and much more. But as an adult in my 15 years of enthusiasm for off-road cycling I have long encountered the negative perception for the activity that prevails throughout our communities. It’s a narrow and disparaging point of view that has resulted in me being unfairly blocked from riding in the hills closest to my home and heart yet pushed the farthest away by such blanket discrimination.

I am not some sort of daredevil who carelessly wreaks havoc upon the terrain and risks injuring himself and others in some thoughtless pursuit of high-speed thrills. And I contend that rather than being the minority of mountain cyclists, I am in the majority who are conscientious and responsible in our off-road recreational pursuits. We respect all others on the trail, we maintain consideration for the natural environment, and we practice the highest standards of trail etiquette and preservation.

Obviously there are those that don’t. But it’s also obvious that those unfortunate trail encounters between inconsiderate cyclists and equestrians and hikers can be cultivated and insidiously exaggerated to a point where everyone of us in a mountain bike saddle must suffer condemnation and banishment from participation in public recreational areas because of the danger we all purportedly pose to other trail users and the destruction we allegedly inflict upon the topography.

I’m not sure what input, if any, led you to support the perpetuation of the ban on mountain cycling from Griffith Park, but I would be very interested in hearing your justification of it — specifically, any agencies you had discussions with and any formal impact studies that may have been conducted.

In return I hope you will be interested and consider the following opportunities and suggestions:

First, I would encourage you to visit the nearby Verdugo Mountains directly north of Glendale only a few miles from Griffith Park. Open to both mountain cyclists and hikers, the Verdugos are a model of urban open space that does not exclude one type of trail user over another.

Second, I would recommend acquainting yourself with the good people over at the Mountain Bike Unit (MBU) website  (http://www.mountainbikeunit.com). The dedicated volunteers with the MBU team work in partnership with the authorized law enforcement agencies to patrol public parklands throughout the Santa Monica Mountains with an aim to provide public assistance and resource protection.

I suggest getting to know that organization because I can envision the establishment of a city-supported MBU-style unit in Griffith Park as a tremendous first-step opportunity to ultimately reopening it to mountain biking — and I would most certainly be the first to sign up. Trained by and working in conjunction with the park’s rangers and the LAPD, I can see a volunteer bike patrol team being an invaluable asset for improving the quality of the natural and recreational experience and supporting compliance and enforcement of the park’s rules for all — not just some — who wish to enjoy what Griffith Park has to offer.

Councilman LaBonge, opening the trails of the public parklands of our city to mountain cyclists is a dream of mine that has not and will not easily fade. I appreciate you taking the time to read my opinions and suggestions and I hope you’ll give them more than just passing consideration and work towards a compromise that will promote inclusion, not exclusion.

William Campbell

Now, I’m not so naive as to think the skies would open and angels would sing and LaBonge would be banging on my front door with a bag full of cash yelling at me to make my dream happen! Thus it would have been no real surprise if i’d gotten a thanks-but-no response. Trouble was instead the reply I got from  LaBonge’s Field Deputy Matthew Levy was just so suprisingly and ludicrously pat and null. Levy, who may be the nicest motherfucking guy in the world, either couldn’t be troubled to read the damn letter or lacked even the basics of comprehension:

Thank you for writing to councilmember LaBonge. I certainly talk better than I type and I welcome your phone call to speak on the issue of mounatin [sic] biking in city parks at further length. Please know that mountain biking is prohibited by ordinance citywide not just in Griffith Park. I look forward to speaking with you. I can be reached best at 818-XXX-XXXX.

Matthew Levy
Field Deputy

I won’t waste any more pixels copying and pasting the terse response I had to the dumbfounding Levy. After all, the past is the past and here we are 3.5 years later with LaBonge finally catching a ball similar to the one I tossed to him back then. Will it mean a city-sponsored mountain bike unit patroling the parklands of Griffith? Doubt it, but who knows? So in the meantime, I’ll be watching to see where he runs with the  idea… whoever’s it is.

22 thoughts on “Well, 3.5 Years Later I Guess I Can Finally Stop Saying That Councilman Tom LaBonge Is A Nonresponsive Disinterested Bastard”

  1. So in the meantime, I’ll be watching to see where he runs with the idea… whoever’s it is.
    I don’t know, after hearing how lame his office seems to be, I worry about him running with anything at all. He might poke his eye out.

  2. Look Will, we will fight you TO THE LAST breath. We will not allow your dangerous psychotic reckless riders on the trails of GP and EP. Stay where you are and be happy. Your exuberant vigilantism in our parks and your over the top rent-a-cop status must make you feel real important. Try and tell me what to do or how to behave and I’ll put a stick in your spokes. WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE UP TO AND WE ARE MOBILIZING. STAY OUT OF GRIFFITH PARK AND ELYSIAN PARK. This is war.

  3. See what I mean, folks? The city teems with scared little blowhard double-standard dictatorial hardcases like “elysianfields” who think public property is their private playground.

  4. I dunno Burns. I’ve encountered the likes and closed minds of people like that before, so while I initially wondered the same thing, ultimately it didn’t strike me as facetious.

  5. Its not a joke Will. Your sarcasm and belittling of the people “mobilizing” against mountain bikes in the parks shows your contempt for the citizens of this city and their basic expectation of safety on the trails. Every couple of years, backed by Osprey, the bikers try and get on the trails. We don’t want you there because you are DANGEROUS. As for public property being our “playground” I could not have put it better. What an idiotic metaphor! If you want to ride your mountain bike on the trails of GP and EP its NOT going to happen. There are trails that your commercial lobby cites like Verdugo. If that’s not enough then move to Boulder or Marin or Canyon Country where you can self segregate. As for this whole idea of citizen enforcers riding around on bikes it just sounds eerily fascistic. Regardless your contempt is duly noted and will be referenced upon need. Thanks for the ammunition Will! BTW why don’t you head up to the top of Elysian Park and clean up all the condoms. That’ll be as start and will show your determination, WILL. Now construct a persuasive and thoughtful reason why MB should be allowed on the trails. You are incapable is my guess as shown by the incoherent reasoning in your letter to TlaBonge. I’ll listen though which something I’m sure you are incapable of.

  6. Elysianfields: I totally know it’s not a joke. Never called it one. Considered it briefly, but knew waaaaay better. Your treatment of me is the joke. A really bad one. You’ve taken every opportunity to arrogantly insult and demean me and what was a sincere and honest attempt to offer an alternative to Councilman LaBonge based on an existing and long-successful program. Instead you’ve called me a vigilante, a rent-a-cop, a fascist and contempuous of the citizens of this city. And then you somehow have the perplexing conceit to demand of me a “persuasive and thoughtful reason why mountainbiking should be allowed in Griffith Park?” Now that’s contemptuous.

    But let me cut to the chase and refrain from the bitterness and name-calling and hyperbolic accusations and drama you seem so fond of and take you up on your offer to listen — except with your ears — by getting together and discussing this civilly, one-on-one. You and me. Or you and me and your pitbull and pepperspray if that makes you feel more secure.

    I find when one steps out from behind the keyboard and monitor and stops all the grandiose comment thread hijacking, there are far less exclamation points and all-caps flung about, don’t you? I’ll even join you for a condom clean-up at the time and place of your choosing. You bring a far more open mind and I’ll bring the rubber gloves.

  7. Wow. I just don’t know what to make of that. At first, it starts out as kind of an “Anonymous”-like rant; doin’ it for the lulz, we do not forgive, we do not forget. Then it just devolves into a little bit of crazy. I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but I almost find it hard to believe that’s for real.

  8. My treatment of you? Now that’s a joke. I disagree with you so now I’m closed minded? to what? To bikes on the trails? I’m just trying to make a point on a specific issue. Now you want meet on the 6th street bridge at midnight with your bicycle chain and ten of your homeys all riding bikes with no brakes? BTW I don’t have a dog or pepper spray but I do have an opinion and have watched the bike lobby try this in the past and I’m against it. Call it an axe to grind. Thats all there is to it. Maybe your not aware of Osprey and the bike lobby’s new project. Maybe you are ignorant of this. Maybe you don’t even want bikes on the trails of GP and Elysian Park? Other then the letter I guess you are playing your cards close to your chest. But do tell what are these citizen enforcers that are going to be roaming the parks in yellow jerseys if not RATS? I think I’ll go for a hike in the SMM and tell them to fuck off. That’d be fun! But seriously Do you really think this is a good idea? I may appear (or be) crazy but at least I’m attempting to express a coherent opinion. That’s all it is; an opinion. Thats what these forums are for right? And Burns what are you his little buddy who stands behind him and says “yeah, yeah, what he said”. And Burns are you seriously more fun than anybody I know? So in closing I hear Downtown BID is hiring people to harass the homeless on skid row. Have your bike and eat it too.

  9. elysianfields, I have no dispute with you disagreeing with me. I do take issue with a lot of the things you wrote, not the least of which is your lumpsum characterization of all mountainbikers as “dangerous” and “psychotic” and “reckless.” If that’s not closed-minded, what is? That’s far more than disagreeing with me. That’s putting me into a category with no knowledge of who I am coupled to a locked unwillingness to consider an alternative point of view.

    Honestly, I’m not aware of Osprey or the “bike lobby,” I’m just a guy who likes to courteously and considerately enjoy the trails on my bike and is bummed that the city’s most rural parks aren’t available to me, primarily because opinions such as your prevail. This may be “war” for you, but I have neither axes nor gears to grind, and yeah, I’ll just shut up and go ride in the Verdugos or the San Gabriels or the Santa Monicas where hikers and bikers and equestrians somehow manage to share the trails and unchecked hatred like yours is pretty much just looked at funny.

    My idea to LaBonge 4 years ago this August was to take an MBU-modeled group (not “enforcers” as you assume, merely the same kind of reservists LaBonge is championing now) who work in supervised conjunction with the park rangers, observing and reporting and offering assistance and education. What I see as an opportunity to assist the city during difficult times and contribute to the community for the benefit of all, you see as fascistic and ulterior in motive.

    Anyway, any delusions you harbor of me wielding bike chains or riding without brakes are yours and yours alone; the offer I made to get off this comment thread and talk about it was sincere. But since that’s not going to happen then just go ahead and make your next conflagrant comment to this thread and be done with it, and/or trek out to Cheseboro Canyon and tell the first MBUer you see out there to fuck off. Neither will be productive, but that seems to be your motive.

  10. elysianfields, you made that abundantly clear. Too bad you weren’t able to make that simple declarative point without the righteously inflammatory and disparaging tones you maintained throughout your comments.

    And to counter your video submission, here’s the other end of the spectrum, proof that not all of us are the reckless psychos:


  11. With the hundreds of trails in GP alone, there is no reason why there can’t be a few dedicated MB trails. With signs posted to warn hikers, and even a varying day use policy, there is certainly a way to facilitate MBs. Keep up the good fight Will. It’s a shame elysianfields can’t partake in a sensible discussion.

  12. Hey Rob to say that I can’t partake in a sensible discussion is absurd. If you read the posts then you’ll find that I gave my reasons why I think its a bad idea. Yet no one countered my reasoning with an alternative reasoning. None of you can say why the people who are against bikes on the trails are wrong and you are right. I reiterate that bikes can reach very high speeds and can and will eventually hit an individual, baby carriage, dog or horse. This city has the lowest ratio of park space to population and putting high speed mechanical vehicles on the trails is homicidally bad public policy. The fact is nobody one your side has said WHY its a good idea to put bikes on the trails. You can attack me all you want but that in itself will not get across your reasoning that this is the correct policy to follow. If this is the quality of the opposition then I guess the NO camp has little to worry about.

  13. relax, elysianpark.

    there are hundreds of miles of trails.
    some of these are rarely used by anyone.
    designate a couple of these as MB trails.
    Post signs.

    no “attacks” here, elysianpark. no “side” I’m on either. I don’t even mountain bike. I simply believe we all can enjoy and co-exist, happily, in the park.

  14. I find it infinitely fascinating that after all the vitriol and unbending righteous indignation that Elysianfields still somehow expects one to take seriously — much less counter — the “reasoning” he or she delivered throughout this comment thread, starting with the first comment as follows and going downtrail from there:

    “Look Will, we will fight you TO THE LAST breath. We will not allow your dangerous psychotic reckless riders on the trails of GP and EP. Stay where you are and be happy. Your exuberant vigilantism in our parks and your over the top rent-a-cop status must make you feel real important. Try and tell me what to do or how to behave and I’ll put a stick in your spokes. WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE UP TO AND WE ARE MOBILIZING. STAY OUT OF GRIFFITH PARK AND ELYSIAN PARK. This is war.”

    There is no interest in discussion from the likes of Elysianfields. A desire for neither decency nor dialogue. Just deadset ridicule, condemnation and hatred all spewed forth sourly and selfishly from a silly soapbox.

  15. Your the one with the silly soapbox Will Cambell of Metblogs. Must make you feel like a celebrity a big shot a playa. I’m venting. so what. That’s what these forums are for. Disable the comments if you can’t stand the heat.
    and Rob;
    There is NO room for mechanical devices on the trails that can reach speeds that cause death.

  16. Your comments are priceless, elysianfields. This “forum” you’ve entwined yourself about like a creeping fig is pretty much just you and me now, so for entertainment value alone there is no way I’d prevent you from what’s obviously a quest to continue sticking your foot ever-deeper into your mouth. Vent away!

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