Thursday, March 19, 2009

Family Bike Ride

Pedal and Play at Hansen Dam Recreation Area 
Eastern San Fernando Valley

For a fun ride for all ages, head to Hansen Dam. The 4.5 mile ride along the top of the dam and back affords panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Fernando Valley (as well as the adjacent park and golf course). Your kid(s) will be in good company: Youths of all ages bike and run here. The training-wheel set is well represented, as are teens. With the exception of one incline as you rise to the dam, this ride is flat and smooth. Bring binoculars if you want a look at equestrians below you. 

There is no--I repeat, absolutely no--shade here, so this ride is for winter and spring. However, there was a nice breeze when we visited recently. 

We bought a carton of watermelon, mango, and other fruit soaked with salty lime juice from a vendor along the bike path. It was delicious!

After the ride, we enjoyed the nearby playground. This is a new, large, and well-maintained playground, with two sprawling structures, a sand area, swings, etc.

If you have time, stroll into the Lake View Terrace Branch Library  behind the playground. It's lovely and green. The building is energy efficient and features recycled and environmentally friendly materials. 

Hansen Dam is a great place for bird watching. For this, stroll the paths around Hansen Lake. Like most lakes in so Cal, it's man made. The lake is an abandoned gravel pit that filled with water. The area is somewhat neglected, but the willows and other plants that have spring up around the lake mimic habitat that used to be common in LA. Much of this river-adjacent habitat (called riparian habitat) was destroyed when two of LA County's three rivers--and many tributaries--were confined to concrete channels. Rare birds, including the Least Bell's Vireo, rely on the plant community here. You probably won't see them unless your an ace birder. But look for herons, egrets, grebes, and ducks in the lake. They're easy to spot. 

The San Fernando Valley chapter of Audubon leads bird walks here. It's a great way to learn.

For more on the LA's native riparian habitat, check out my series KPCC series on the LA River

This park is best known for it's Aquatic Center, which features a "recreational lake" for pedal boats and fishing, and a "swimming lake." Don't get any wild ideas from the term lake. These are giant swimming pools. 

1770 Foothill Blvd
Lake View Terrace

To bike the dam:
From the 210 Freeway exit Foothill/Osborne Street. Go west on Osborne (it becomes Foothill Blvd). Pass the Aquatic Center, and turn left--confusingly--back onto Osborne (instead of continuing on Foothill). Turn left into the Hansen Dam Recreation Area at Dronfield Ave. As soon as you turn, look left. Note the paved trail that runs next to Osborne Street. This is the bike trail to the dam. As the road Ts into a park road, look left. You'll see the playground.
(Thomas Guide page 502)
From the 5 Freeway, exit Osborne. Head east past San Fernando Road and Glenoaks. Turn right on Dronfield.

For a Bird Walk
Park in the lot near the athletic fields. This is east of the aquatic center, near the intersection of Osborne and Fenton Avenue (next to the 210 Freeway). Walk away from the road, past the picnic area and athletic fields, and take one of the dirt paths leading to the lake.

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