09 February 2010

Carbon Canyon Regional Park

Some discussion of the history of the establishment of Carbon Canyon Regional Park has been contained in this blog, mainly how the park emanated from the gradual decline of the Olinda oil town that existed on that site for decades, the creation of Carbon Canyon Dam in the late 1950s, and the decision of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, which planned, built and manages the dam, and the County of Orange to develop the park, which opened in the mid-1960s. 

For a good thirty or more years, the park was an isolated gem in the "wilds" of northeastern Orange County, but has become a lot heavier utilized as urbanization has slowly creeped its direction.  Now, on holidays and many weekends, the park is jammed with visitors enjoying the picnic shelters, playgrounds, lake stocked with fish, paths and trails, grassy areas, and tennis courts.

In six years in the Canyon, I've visited the park far less often than I should have, usually to attend birthday parties, but on Sunday my family and I spent a couple of hours there, with the kids riding their bikes and the family as a whole exploring the park, or at least those parts that were open.  For example, the walking trail to the redwood grove was closed because of our recent wet weather.  Still, there was much to see, do and enjoy.

For those interested in the history of the area, there is a State Historic Landmark plaque at the eastern end of the park, where the old entrance across from El Rodeo Stables is.  The plaque identifies the Olinda community and oil fields and is the only reminder of what was once a thriving place for several hundred oil field workers and their families.  The original Olinda School, for example, stood not too far from the plaque next to Carbon [Canyon] Creek, which runs through the eastern edge of the park, towards the dam at its southern end.

There is also a waterwise garden that has been recently introduced and appears to still be in process on the far eastern portion, next to the future visitor center for Chino Hills State Park, which is been under construction for quite some time, but new work very much in evidence since bond funding for it was recently unfrozen by order of the governor.

The lake, which had a few people fishing in it when we were there, was so full with recent rainwater that it overflowed its banks and spilled over into adjacent areas.  There are a few picnic shelters in close proximity and there is a nice ambiance in and around this body of water, which is likely filled with water pumped in from nearby Metropolitan Water District water that is part of the Robert B. Diemer treatment plant atop the hills just to the east.

The tennis courts weren't in use, but there are several of them and well-maintained.  I've been at the park when there have been soccer leagues using the wide grassy areas at the southwestern end, though the heavy rains have left this area very soggy and flooded what appears to be new construction or repaving, perhaps, of the parking areas at the west end of this section.

Also at the far eastern end of the park, parallelling Carbon Canyon Road from the parking lot near the old entrance is an access trail to Chino Hills State Park.  Given the dire condition of state finances, our state parks have come very near to complete closure and the threat of such a desperate move (even though many of the parks actually turn a profit) still exists.  Therefore, it is sad to see so many cars parked along the side of Carbon Canyon Road and even blocking emergency call boxes (which, after all, might actually be needed by stranded motorists) in the all-consuming desire to get free access to the park.  At any rate, a $3 admission on weekdays and $5 on weekends (much less an annual pass, which still appears to be $55 generally or $35 for seniors and the disabled) seems a small price to pay to access the State Park.

As said above, the walking trail that branches off from the eastern end of the park and crossed Carbon [Canyon] Creek has been closed.  It's been probably seven or eight years since I last walked it back to the redwood (yes, redwood!) grove that was planted years ago in a corner of the park.  Back then, the hills above that were undeveloped and an informal trail climbed the steep slopes and gave hardy climbers a good workout on the way up.  But, within the last several years, the city of Yorba Linda, never one to let valuable and needed open space get in the way of a housing development, permitted the Toll Brothers development company to build homes up to the very border of the park, including on that hill--and has that taken a toll (ha) on the sense of isolation that the park once had in that southeasterly direction (of course, the building of Olinda Ranch earlier in the 2000s also contributed its share of enveloping the park.)  Someday, a return trip to walk the trail again when it is opened is in order.

Actually, regular return trips to the park generally are in order.  Carbon Canyon Regional Park, even though it has lost its remoteness, is still a gem that has amenities to suit just about anyone looking for a place for a good picnic, a challenging game of tennis, a nice walk to redwood trees (yes, redwoods--when the trail is open, that is), a bike ride, a quiet day of fishing, and some pretty cool playground equipment, too.

The photos interspersed here were taken on Sunday afternoon and there are a few more in the Gallery at the bottom of the blog page.


Anonymous said...

There is a house at the intersection of Rosemary and Carbon Canyon Road....It looks as if it used to be a chapel or a church of somekind? Is there any background to this? I'm so interested to know all about all the "secrets" the Canyon holds!

Paul said...

Hello Anonymous, yes, that was a community church (non-denominational?) that operated for decades in Sleepy Hollow, but has been a residence for quite some time. Perhaps a current or former Sleepy Hollow denizen can chime in with more on this? Thanks for checking out the Chronicle!