HomeCity NewsRancho Looks Ahead to Happier Trails

Rancho Looks Ahead to Happier Trails

First published in the Feb. 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The historic Burbank Rancho Equestrian neighborhood is home to hundreds of horses and their riders with access to notable scenic trails, and its proximity to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Griffith Park makes it the ideal port of call for equestrians and their steeds to put down roots.
It’s a common sight in the unique neighborhood for riders to take to the pavement, braving traffic in order to access horse-friendly trails around the equestrian center. Often, horse-drawn carriages lead their riders down Riverside Drive. Leashed ponies make their way to the Mariposa Equestrian Bridge for an afternoon walk — all clopping along on the paved asphalt and across busy thoroughfares.

Photo courtesy Mike Feuer for Congress
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (right) announced last week that she was endorsing Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer (left) in his bid for the 30th U.S. Congressional District.

That risky practice could soon change. The Burbank Rancho Equestrian neighborhood is set to receive a new trail that will run along Riverside Drive, connecting riders to popular horse facilities in Griffith Park.
“This trail elevates the Rancho. … It provides safe passage for the horses to the Mariposa Bridge. It is a gift to the Rancho Equestrians,” said equestrian Jay Geisenheimer.
Designed by Geisenheimer and her partner in the venture, Christopher Rizzotti, a member of the Burbank Planning Board, the trail would initially run south on Main Street, connecting riders to the Equestrian Center before turning west along Riverside Drive. From there, it would pass Pickwick Gardens and the L.A. Kings Ice Rink, turning south again to cross Riverside Drive and connect riders to Griffith Park via the Mariposa Equestrian Bridge. The bridge is the only pedestrian bridge connecting Burbank with Griffith Park.
Geisenheimer started work on the design in 2021, after learning of developer Matt Waken’s plans to build townhomes across the street from the Equestrian Center at the Pickwick Bowl site.
Geisenheimer recognized the risk that development could pose to horses and their riders. Additional traffic could increase the likelihood of collisions with equestrians. In early meetings with Waken, Geisenheimer says that he was supportive of the idea to build a trail around the property, creating a significant portion of safe travel space for riders along Riverside Drive.
Rancho residents overall were not supportive of Waken’s development, and it was widely criticized by many for its density and for the vehicle traffic it would bring. Ultimately, the Burbank City Council denied the project, citing that the development conflicted with land-use requirements in the city’s Rancho Master Plan. Waken sued, arguing that the land was in fact zoned for commercial-residential uses.
At that time, former Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel Luddy intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of her organization, Friends of the Rancho Equestrian Neighborhood, hoping to represent the interests of the neighborhood. Ultimately the city settled, securing some protections for equestrians and Rancho residents. Waken agreed to build the trail around his property as part of the settlement, but that wouldn’t completely connect equestrians with other popular destinations.

Photo by Gavin J. Quinton / Burbank Leader
Rancho residents and their horses often cross the busy Riverside Drive in order to access equestrian facilities at Griffith Park and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

That’s where Geisenheimer and Rizzotti’s complete plan comes in. The city would work to connect Waken’s portion of the trail with the rest of the route laid out in their complete trail plan.
The design Rizzotti and Geisenheimer have proposed is far larger than the trail that came about from the city’s settlement with Waken. It starts and ends on less busy residential streets, and meets with horse services at Griffith Park.
In Rizzotti’s view, the trail plan that came about as part of the city’s settlement with Waken is a “trail to nowhere.”
“It dumps the rider off in the middle of nowhere on Riverside Drive. I didn’t think that was sufficient. As a neighborhood, we are getting denser with all of these projects coming in. Our trail design will hopefully slow drivers down, and provide a safer annex through to the [equestrian] bridge.”
The two hope that by continuing the trail throughout the entire planned route and adding additional signage and special crossing lights at intersections and driveways will ensure the safety of riders as development continues in the area.
“We don’t want to piecemeal this together. We have time to do it right before Pickwick is fully constructed. We think there is an opportunity in the Pickwick project to make this a better neighborhood. If we are going to be forced to have that project, then let’s do it right,” Rizzotti told the Leader.
In a meeting of the Burbank City Council last October, Councilman Nick Schultz requested that Geisenheimer and Rizzotti’s trail be added as a future agenda item. Since then, the city planning staff has reviewed the plan and is expected to make a report to the council on the topic in the coming months.

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