Tom LaBonge Isn’t Finished Upgrading Griffith Park

The city councilman celebrates the re-opening of Beachwood Canyon’s trail by throwing out a new idea to keep residents and Hollywood Sign-hungry tourists happy

Happy New Year, hikers! After more than eight months of delay-filled construction, city officials on Monday re-opened the Beachwood Canyon trail.

The entrance was closed last March so that the city could install a new gate, designed to keep the number of drivers seeking a view of the Hollywood Sign to a minimum while letting hikers come and go between park hours (5 a.m. to sunset daily). Outgoing city councilman Tom LaBonge, who hikes in Griffith Park every day, celebrated the completion of the more than $200,000 project. “I’m sorry it was closed so long,” he told us after a morning walk through the area.

“[This morning] I talked to people from Brazil. I talked to people from Poland. I talked to people from Beachwood Canyon. There was a woman wearing a Union Jack T-shirt walking her dogs and she loved the fact that the gate has been opened but doesn’t like all the people! When you live next to a public park, you’ve got to expect the public—but we’ve gotta manage it better.”

LaBonge says the new security fence installed at the end of Beachwood Canyon will help keep the park clean and solve some neighbor complaints. “At night sometimes people with not good intentions would go up there and smoke and drink and graffiti, and now they can’t do that,” he said. Restricted parking was also put in to make the trail safer and more manageable for emergency vehicles.

“When I got elected in 2001, one of my goals was to expand Griffith Park to the west, and we have—but there is more that needs to be done,” said LaBonge. He’d still like to see the park become even more accessible to hikers, but not at a cost to the surrounding community.

He’s also got an idea to keep tourists and residents happy. “The Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Transportation should work together with Metro, and at the subway station at Vine and Hollywood there should be a kiosk and vans that could take tourists directly up into the park, so that they don’t need to park in the neighborhood but can still hike in Griffith Park and get a shot in front of the Hollywood Sign,” he said. “[The departments] could charge a fee, which would raise money for the rangers and the maintenance crew that maintains this section of the park. It hasn’t been approved yet, but I hope it’s approved before I’m out of here.“