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Access to Deervale-Stone Canyon Trail Blocked by Neighbors

Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association taking legal steps to restore public access to trail head, board member says.

 

Residents of the Deervale community in Sherman Oaks have been gathering signatures of longtime hikers in the hopes of having public access restored to one end of Deervale-Stone Canyon Park.

Hikers can enter the trail at the southern end at Deervale Place, but residents at the northern access point, where Kester Avenue ends, are being discouraged by homeowners.

For decades, residents who live around the park have been hiking the trail that runs through 80 acres of open space.

The open space area—home to coyotes, deer and ground squirrels—was preserved by the city so that Sherman Oak residents would have access to open space where they could hike and walk their dogs, said Elke Heitmeyer, a board member of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association (SOHA).

A decade ago, a developer purchased part of the property with plans to build 100 homes, but residents worked with city officials to purchase most of the land and preserve it as open space, Heitmeyer said.

Plans for four to five homes were approved at both the Deervale and Kester ends of the trail. But the city failed to purchase additional parcels of land at the Kester Avenue end of the park that would have connected the park to a city road.

The developer built a road between the houses, however, that does provide public access to the park at the Kester Avenue end. The crux of the problem is the city failed to retain rights to that road, Heitmeyer said.

A right-of-entry agreement was made with a property owner whose land sits next to the park at Deervale Place, but city officials failed to strike the same agreement with the residents at the Kester Avenue end.

Access to the Kester Avenue trail head is gained by walking up a paved, half-mile-long road. In accessing the trail, hikers do not have to cross anyone’s property.

A trio of homeowners who live near the Kester Avenue trail head have expressed opposition to public access at their end, Heitmeyer said. At some point, they were able to get the city to erect no trespassing signs where the paved road meets the park, she said.

One of the homeowners, who opposed public access to the park from the paved road that branches off of Kester, refused to be interviewed for this story. (The other two were unavailable for comment.)

This Patch reporter visited the home of the man, who lives at 14856 Kester Ave. and erected a chain link fence around his yard to keep out hikers.

In response to the clanging of the doorbell, a man came out through a side door into his enclosed yard with a small dog. This reporter identified herself as a Patch reporter and asked to speak with him about the issues surrounding the park and the no trespassing signs that had been erected. He refused to be interviewed for the story and ordered the reporter off his property.

“You need to go over there,” he said to the reporter, pointing to the open space of the park. “This is my private property.”

According to Heitmeyer, the homeowners who live at the Kester Avenue entrance to the park, for years had no objection to hikers passing up the paved road to the trail. But then last year, the No Trespassing signs went up.

Unlike some of the more popular Los Angeles trail areas, such as Runyon Canyon, the Deervale area does not attract hordes of hikers, said Heitmeyer, who lives in the Deervale Community. At most, she sees only one or two of her neighbors during her morning hikes, she said.

“In the evening there are occasional groups of young people, who hike the trail after work,” Heitmeyer said. “It is fun to watch them huffing and puffing up the trail.”

Heitmeyer, a member of the planning and land use committee for SOHA, had hoped the access issue could be resolved by meeting with the neighbors. She and other members of the Deervale Community have tried to talk with the neighbors at the Kester Avenue entrance to the trailhead to no avail.

While they tried to work things out amicably, SOHA members have been gathering signatures from legacy hikers to petition city officials to take down the signs and make public access to the park more formal.

SOHA only needed four or five signatures from long-time hikers, but has gathered 30 signatures.

Since attempts to speak with neighbors who oppose public access has failed, SOHA members have decided to take the next step toward having the signs removed, which is to retain legal counsel in an attempt to compel the city to do what it promised Deervale residents they would do when the houses on Kester Avenue were built—to make public access to the park legal, Heitmeyer said.

 

 

Scott Killeen June 27, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Once again SOHA is pushing their manufactured weight around LACC. How is it that a landowner/homeowner does not have as much right as anyone else?
Bob June 27, 2011 at 04:31 PM
I have been walking this trail from the Kester/VV entrance since I was eight years old. I'm now 49. I grew up in Stone Canyon and I live there now with a clear view of the crest of the hill. I would be happy to sign any petition allowing access to the trail on the north end. It sounds like a prescriptive easement may be at hand.
Joel Jeffrey Rane June 27, 2011 at 06:20 PM
The Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys War of the late '70s-early '80s ended in a reluctant truce, but if the Lords of the Manor start pulling their "git off my property" crap again, I'll drive up from the South Bay to rejoin the battle. You snobs don't own LA, much as you think otherwise, and you're entitled to hide behind your spite-fences...but not one inch more.
Elke Heitmeyer June 27, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Hi Bob, thanks for your comment. Could you please email us at deervaleparkcommunity@gmail.com so we can include you.
Elke Heitmeyer June 27, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Hi Joel, just in case we need you, could you email your contact info to deervaleparkcommunity@gmail.com. Thank you.
dirk minderhout June 27, 2011 at 07:14 PM
I live up Stone Canyon as well and have been hiking the trail since 1996, a relative new commer I know. About a yeart ago "That Guy" on the north end of the trail came out of his house in nothing but his underware and yelled at my kids 10 & 14 year old boys to get off his property. Well they will not go back and we miss being able to use the trail.From what we have told our kids about being cautious of strangers this guy was pretty much off the charts. I hope your prescriptive easment works and this guy is made to understand he does not own the right of way that has been put in place. I will be signing your petition as well. Dirk
Mattey's Mom June 27, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Hi El. I read the various legal documents that Paul Koretz' office emailed to both you and me & believe that a Land Use attorney has a very plausible argument that the intent was for the owner of the Deervale Park property to intent a permanent right of way & that the 'temporary' one was just until the transfer of title documents were completed, to be replaced with a permanent easement for public access to the park at Valley Vista & Kester. I am happy to add my name to the Petition & to otherwise help out. Ev
Mattey's Mom June 27, 2011 at 11:39 PM
How about gathering signatures at the 'new' Saturday Sherman Oaks Farmers Market' at Sepulveda & Kester?
Bob June 28, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Elke, I tried the email link you supplied, but it seems my email was bounced. You may have received it. Cyberspace can be so screwy. My email is soldbybob@gmail.com let me know how I can help... Sincerely, Bob
michaelh August 25, 2011 at 11:07 PM
14856 Kester? Is that a real address? All the other numbers on Kester that I've found have 4 digits. I think the story was totally manufactured. , michael h
Elke Heitmeyer August 26, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Thanks for catching that. The reporter did not realize that the address is actually Valley Vista, not Kester. Kester deadends right there at Valley Vista.
Christopher Witte January 05, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I was hiking in the northern area of the park and not even trespassing and a crazy, verbally abusive man yelled at me and told me this was not a park but a animal reserve and threatened to call the cops until I left!
Elke Heitmeyer January 06, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Sorry you had to experience that. Others have as well. He even yelled at a Daily News reporter once, who was trying to get his side of the story. Clearly dysfunctional, maybe getting worse. And the driveway leading up to the park is not even his property. The 2 property owners who do own that section of the driveway have been scared by him into thinking they need to try to prevent people from accessing the public city park on their driveway, which also leads to other properties. We need to get together to start working on obtaining an easement.
Andysheh November 16, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I know I'm posting on an old thread, but can anyone please let me know if there have been any developments since last year? I'm a 20 year resident of Sherman Oaks, on Valley Vista, and never knew about this trail (though have passed the driveway nearly every day of my life). The deervaleparkcommunity@gmail.com email address bounced back for me, as well.
Elke Heitmeyer November 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Deervale Park has been resting, no new development. When interviewed by Patch, I think I was a bit over confident as do what I could do at the time. I was busy helping to the Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon - which we did. I learnt a lot about how to preserve the public's right to a trail. Sorry the gmail address disappeared. Please contact me at DeervaleSumac@earthlink.net if you want to get involved.
natonet February 19, 2013 at 01:29 AM
I live in Sherman Oaks. And it would be nice to be able to cross through the end of the trail at Kester and finish the hike. Otherwise, it will only be a one-way (reverse) hike at the end of Deervale.
Brian Kilpatrick December 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM
We visited our family in Sherman Oaks for Christmas and found the entrance to this park on Deervale. It was a beautiful trail and when we got to the bottom there was two more hikers blocked by a chain link fence! No way out and that would be a very steep climb back out for unsuspecting visitors such as ourselves. A man came out of his house and started telling us to go away and then somehow had a change of heart a few minutes later. He said he would look for the key that locked a gate that was not visible from where the trail had brought us to a dead end at the chain link fence. He came back about 5 minutes later and said "they put this gate in and said I could lock it if I wanted to". He said he had a change of heart when he saw we had a woman with us. It's a shame this park doesn't have a way out, it's a beautiful trail that let's you get away from it all so close to town. I would think it's a liability to the city to have a park that leads you down such a steep trail but has no way out, what if it had been a Senior Citizen that wondered down the trail? Loved visiting Sherman Oaks, you have a beautiful city!
Elke Heitmeyer December 30, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Brian - glad you enjoyed our beautiful Deervale Park and Trail. There is another way out at the lower end. As you face the flat, meadowlike area, almost at the bottom at ValleyVista the old trail turns left. If you go straight and then follow the little trail to the right you can legally exit at Crisp Canyon, next to a wooden fence.

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