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Hurdles Remain : Silver Lake Jogging Trail Gaining Favor

June 12, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Every morning, every evening and, in fact, most other parts of the day, joggers wend their way around the Silver Lake Reservoir. The cooling water surface, the trees and the views of the hillside add to the enjoyment of their exercise, runners say.

However, the winding main roads around the reservoir are also busy with motorists headed to and from downtown Los Angeles. Two-legged and four-wheeled creatures do not seem to share space particularly well on Silver Lake Boulevard, West Silver Lake Drive and Armstrong Avenue.

"I've almost been clipped many times," said jogger and community activist Toni Stevens. "It's a hazard."

So, Stevens and others, including Los Angeles Councilman Michael Woo, are trying to separate the two camps by having some sort of formalized jogging trail built around the reservoir, whose perimeter is 2.2 miles. Proposals range from simply striping the roadway to taking some land from the reservoir property and building a concrete barrier along the road.

The idea of a trail, shuffling around for years, has definitely picked up speed in the last few weeks. But it has a few hurdles to jump.

Concern for Water Purity

The biggest obstacle appears to be a worry that a formalized running path could endanger the purity of the 854 million gallons of drinking water stored in the 85-acre reservoir complex, which comprises Silver Lake and the adjacent Ivanhoe reservoirs but usually is considered one body of water.

A high chain-link fence topped with barbed-wire now surrounds the property. At some points, there is more than 50 feet of grassland between the fence and the water; at other points, however, there is only a very thin strip of land.

Officials of the Department of Water and Power say that they fear giving up too much land close to the water and that a path might attract vandals.

"We want to be a good neighbor, but our primary concern is that we want to make very, very sure we can protect that water supply from any contamination," Bruce Kuebler, assistant engineer of the DWP's water operations, told a meeting of the Silver Lake Residents Assn. last week.

He said the DWP might be willing to move its fence 20 or 30 feet closer to the water on the widest part of its property, the northeast corner near Armstrong Avenue, but would be "very uncomfortable" about doing so in any other spots. For those other spots, he and some runners suggest building a trail in the roadway--an idea not expected to please city traffic planners.

Another hurdle is opposition from some homeowners who claim that a trail might become a citywide attraction like the tracks at UCLA and Lake Hollywood. That could shatter the serenity of the neighborhood, add litter, make parking tougher and even become a magnet for criminals, some say.

"I think the whole matter should just be dropped. Forget about it," said John Antonioli, a long-time resident of the area.

Joggers counter such arguments.

"I'm sympathetic to keeping our neighborhood clean and neat, but from what I see the joggers who are there now are not the kind of people who put trash down," said Joe Saraci, a school librarian who says he runs around the reservoir nearly every day.

Jim Bonar, secretary and program chairman of the Residents Assn., led DWP engineer Kuebler on a tour of the neighborhood recently to show him where a path might be built. Bonar concedes that a formal trail might prove annoying to nearby residents.

"It is conceivable, but I hope it wouldn't happen," he said.

Woo, whose 13th District includes the reservoir, promised during his election campaign last year that some sort of jogging trail would be built. Woo said last week that he will soon appoint a committee--including joggers, homeowners and traffic and water officials--to study the concept. Funds allocated for the Silverlake Park and recreation center at the southern tip of the reservoir might be used for the trail, according to the Silverlake Recreation Advisory Council. Preliminary cost estimates range from $2,000 to more than $10,000.

Meanwhile, Stevens heads a jogging trail committee of the recreation council, which helps to run the park. Stevens said she is encouraged that the DWP is talking about giving up land.

"I was expecting to hear nothing but opposition from them," she explained.

According to Greg Uehlein, recreation director at the park, hundreds of people run around the reservoir every day, from dawn until past midnight. That includes some organized packs, like the Frontrunners, a group of gay men and women runners who circle the water every Tuesday evening.

Fatality Remembered

Some neighborhood people said they had heard that a woman runner was hit by an automobile and killed at the reservoir sometime in the last two years but they could not produce the date of the supposed incident nor the name of the victim. Police say they could not confirm that such a fatality occurred unless someone knew at least the date.

Some runners say their safety concerns would be satisfied with the addition of reflecting dots, painted stripes, signs and perhaps a traffic light along existing roads.

However, Stevens says that would not be adequate because many cars speed. She is calling for some kind of barrier, perhaps a second fence. The inner fence would protect the water, the outer fence would protect the joggers.

She said that, to address concerns about security, a track could have limited hours of usage and a locked gate.

"We are still talking about what all this is going to look like," she said. "I certainly don't want to make it look like a concentration camp, or do anything that would alter the beauty of the reservoir."

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