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Liz Blackwelder, tireless advocate, dies at 93

Conservationist was a pioneer in preserving open space around the Foothills.

January 22, 2014|By Sara Cardine
  • Elizabeth Blackwelder, a lifelong equestrian and trails conservationist, passed away in her home in the early morning hours of Jan. 15
Elizabeth Blackwelder, a lifelong equestrian and trails… (File Photo )

Elizabeth Blackwelder, a lifelong equestrian and trails conservationist whose dogged persistence and love of nature led to the creation of a complex and beautiful network of trails throughout the Foothills, passed away in her home in the early morning hours of Jan. 15. She was 93.

Her death came after a long period of illness, through which Blackwelder continued to work to build and improve the city’s trails system, according to her daughter, Glendale resident Lenora Blackwelder.

Liz Blackwelder grew up in Atherton, Calif., surrounded by farm animals and horses, and was said to have first ridden a pony as early as age 3. All who knew her recognized her as a “true horse woman” who steadfastly believed in the importance of accessing wilderness and connecting with nature.

Although her love of horseback riding and being out in nature on trails was a lifetime one, Blackwelder’s personal impact on La Cañada Flintridge’s trails formally began in 1974, when she became a founding member of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council. As a member, and president from 1991 through 1998, she played a crucial role in a decades-long effort to acquire 40 acres of open space in La Cañada for the creation of a network of trails that could be enjoyed by walkers and hikers, bicyclists and fellow equestrians.

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The Trails Council partnered with the Santa Monica Conservancy to create what would later become Cherry Canyon Park. In 1994, a .38-mile trail segment was named Liz’s Loop in Blackwelder’s honor.

“She realized how important it was for people to be out in nature, to have that time to look around and appreciate it,” said Randy Strapazon, retired Trails Council member and past president. “I think that’s why she never gave up. She always said, ‘Patience is a virtue, but persistence is a necessity.’”

Although an ulcer on her leg forced Blackwelder to give up riding in 2004, she continued to work tirelessly for the completion of a 12-mile loop trail connecting both sides of the city. In 2007, she rose from her wheelchair to be the first to walk across the Flint Canyon Trail in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. In 2011, her ultimate goal was realized at the opening of the Trails Council Link, an 800-foot pathway connecting Verdugo Boulevard and Descanso Drive and the last segment of the loop to be completed.

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