I-Team Investigates: Nearby trails similar to the CV Link

Lessons to be learned by other trail efforts

I-Team Investigates nearby...

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The News Channel 3 I-Team is examining recreational trails similar to the proposed CV Link, an active transportation corridor through the Coachella Valley for people to walk, skate, bike or drive low-speed electric vehicles. 

Some trails around Southern California are thriving as other communities are taking dramatic measures to keep their trails safe.

Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray is addressing a homelessness crisis along the 50-mile Santa Ana River Trail.

The I-Team visited the trail to learn what's gone wrong with parts of what's supposed to be a community asset.

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Murray said, "It is absolutely essential to prevent this from happening in the first place. It's not safe. This is not humane. It's not sanitary."

An estimated 420 homeless people live in Anaheim, many in encampments along the Santa Ana River Trail. One large camp is next to Angel Stadium and its parking lot.

It took a petition signed by nearly 14,000 people to get the city's attention, but the city is moving forward with a program called Operation Home Safe to clear the camps from the trail by year's end.

"It has a real impact," Murray said. She added, "residents who live along these trails are dealing with noise, with the volume of trash, people climbing over with petty theft, with drug use, we've had human trafficking down here, drug use and drug deals."

Read: CVAG's 24 Million Dollar Mistake

Led by Murray, the city has declared a state of emergency, is increasing police patrols, and offering the homeless comprehensive services and aid programs in an effort to move them.

Murray said, "We will have to make sure patrols continue to new encampments don't emerge." 

It's a whole different scene 35 miles north, at the Pacific Electric Trail.

Rancho Cucamonga is the midpoint of this 21-mile trail. People we spoke to say the best thing about it, is they feel safe.

Harley Tooley of Ontario said, "It's safe. You have to watch at the intersections, but it's safe."

Another trail user, Deanna Cohen of Fontana, said, "There's a lot of people on it, so you feel safer. I wouldn't come at night, but during the day I feel good."

We spoke to police who say this converted railroad line is now a testament to their healthy community.

Deputy Jacob Bailey of the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department said there are homeless people in the area, but generally not along the trail. "I can't say they're never congregating here on this trail," said Bailey. "I'm sure there are times we do have tents, or there are people hanging out on the trail itself," Bailey added.

The difference here police say the trail is located near homes. They have dedicated resources for patrols here, and respond immediately to any problems reported by neighbors.

"I think it's just the actual enforcement component," said Bailey, commenting on differences between Rancho Cucamonga and Anaheim's approach to homelessness along trails.

Deputy Bailey even showed off a smartphone app, an effort to make it easier for people to report any troubles along the trail.

Back in Anaheim, Council Member Murray has advice for the Coachella Valley Association of Governments and the CV Link.

"Every jurisdiction in the area should be working together and collaboratively have multijurisdictional enforcement of the trail," Murray said, "to make sure public safety remains intact throughout," Murray says it can't simply be left up to law enforcement.

So what is CVAG's plan for CV Link? A spokeswoman, Erica Felci, says they've spent countless hours developing options for trail operations and maintenance.

That effort included hosting public workshops in the summer of 2015, involving Police and Fire Chiefs in the process, and a survey to determine public safety needs along the trail.

We examined the CV Link Master Plan. It shows maintaining a safe trail could include policing coordination, security cameras, and crime prevention through proper design, natural surveillance and good maintenance.

No final decisions have yet been made. Felci says security and policing decisions will come once the trail is built. She added CVAG wants the CV Link to be a successful project that works for the community.

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