Following the closure of gates at a Runyon Canyon Park entrance long used by hikers, defenders of access to the area say they plan to file a lawsuit to reopen the entryway

Peter Hill, a longtime defender of public access to the park, heard news of the gates' closure from L.A. Weekly.

“I'm outraged,” he told us.

Ford Ashford Funds, an Orange County private equity firm that owns the property at 2450 Solar Drive, announced in a statement yesterday that the gates were closing.

The firm says that, although the entrance and trail were developed after 20 years of neglect at the property, once it took it over in 2011 it:

–cleaned up the place;

–developed an alternate trail just for the public; and

–negotiated with the city to establish a “public/private partnership” for public control of the portion of the 22-acre parcel that includes the gate.

That last goal has been unsuccessful so far, but the owners say it's still a possibility. Sounds to us like the gates' closure is an incentive to get the city to take over about 16 acres of the property.

Here's part of Ashford's statement:

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The 22-acre parcel has always been privately owned and includes the house at 2450 Solar Drive and the adjacent knoll. When we took possession of the property in late 2011, the doors and windows were boarded up, the interior was covered with graffiti and the Hollywood Police Department reported ongoing gang and drug-related activities in the house.

Over the prior 20 years, the hillside and path have eroded and portions of our property were adopted unknowingly by hikers as a public trail. In the last two years, we have addressed property and neighborhood security, hillside erosion, drainage, landscape and safety concerns, and satisfied all outstanding permit issues. Ultimately, the city granted the first ever certificate of occupancy for a project started more than two decades ago.

Advocates for access aren't satisfied with the new trail, which includes a footbridge and stairway, and plan to sue, Hill told us.

In fact, an attorney for the advocates was to file suit the minute the gates were locked, he said. However, Hill said, she's out of the country.

We reached out to the lawyer via email but were unable to get through before deadline. We assume the suit would argue that the trail reverted to public use after two decades of being essentially abandoned.

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