The trails of Chino Hills State Park are a sanctuary to many.
Surrounded on all sides by densely populated urban areas, the park stands as a refuge for those seeking an outlet from the bustle of metropolitan living.
Some venture the grounds on foot, while others by cycle or hoof.
Chino Hills State Park is frequented by 3,800 individuals per day on average during the peak season, according to Enrique Arroyo, a state parks manager who works on the park.
Rain or shine.
On early September mornings where the clay-infused landscape of Chino Hills State Park holds the scent of wet earth, the park welcomes anyone willing to brave the terrain.
“For the last few months, I’ve been on a health kick. I normally go to Ayala Park and walk three miles. I like that Chino Hills State Park has paved roads to walk on,” said Marisol Arujo, a Chino resident who was walking the paved road with her son, Liam, that morning. “You don’t have to worry about your safety or about mountain lions.”
The park, which can be accessed by three entrances in three different cities, is bordered on all sides by cities and urban environments.
“Chino Hills State Park is unique because of its presence around so much urbanization,” said Jaden Caderao, a Park Aid at Chino Hills State Park. “On one side of the park, you have all of metropolitan Los Angeles and Orange County, along with Riverside County and San Bernardino County. A lot of urban environments are sandwiching it on all sides. The park is kind of a refuge amidst all of that.”
The Panopio family, who is also local to Chino, also feel that the park is an outlet from Southern California’s growing urban cities.
“It’s right on the urban edge, and that makes it unique,” said Jeremy Panopio, 12, who was joined by his parents and three siblings on a hike through the park’s Aliso Canyon Trail.
“It’s one of the best parks to come to in the springtime,” added Jeremy’s mother, Kristyn. “There are also remnants of history here that are protected. We love the state parks.”
Aside from hiking, many enjoy cycling or mountain biking through the state park.
“I think the hills are very beautiful,” said Jenny Feng, a Chino Hills resident that was enjoying a ride through the park on her mountain bike that morning. “It’s great for mountain biking and road biking.”
Feng bikes the hills four or five times per week.
The State Park Recreation Commission declared the region a unit of the State Park system in 1984, after local citizen group Hills for Everyone assisted California State Parks on the acquisition of 2,237 acres of rolling hills and vistas.
“Having protected natural lands nearby affords opportunities for recreation, peace of mind, improves quality of life, and has enormous benefits for maintaining the diversity of local flora and fauna,” said Melanie Schlotterbeck, Conservation Consultant with Hills for Everyone.
Today, the Chino Hills State Park spans 14,102 acres from the north end of the Santa Ana Mountains to the southwest portion of the Puente-Chino Hills, as land acquisitions from private landowners have expanded the park over time.
“The state park system is crucial for all Americans, Californian’s especially. In California, we have over 200 parks that offer nature out to the public, while both respecting and protecting the natural environment of the state,” said Caderao. “There is so much that damages our environment and the natural landscapes of this world, so having an entity that protects it is important.”
The California State Parks system is the largest state park system in the United States, representing 280 parks.
Chino Hills State Park continues to grow in size, as a land acquisition of 1,530 acres of ridgeline could be added to the park by 2024.
Michael Lindsey, who has volunteered at Chino Hills State Park for eleven years, feels that the state park is valuable because it gives visitors an outlet from city life.
Lindsey volunteers as an interpreter with the park, a role where he teaches guests of the Discovery Center about biodiversity.
“State parks, like Chino Hills, Lindsey notes, “ let people see what the state looked like when people first settled here.”
“I always tell everyone, even little kids, that this park belongs to them. It belongs to the people of California,” Lindsey said.
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