ENCINITAS — The 5-foot-wide bridge in Olivenhain that crosses a quiet tributary just south of Lone Jack Road might only take horseback riders a couple of seconds to cross.
But the bridge represents a years-long fight by avid trail users and equestrian enthusiasts in Encinitas — spearheaded in part by one spunky Baby Boomer with a lifelong passion and dedication to building and improving trails.
On Feb. 10, members of the Encinitas Trails Coalition and Encinitas, including president Linda Martin, and Councilman Joe Mosca, who lives in Olivenhain, came together to celebrate the contributions of Elinor “Ellie” Troester and rename the bridge in her honor.
Mosca presented Troester with a certificate in recognition of her advocacy efforts.
Troester, 87, was in attendance flanked by family and friends, who said the honor was well deserved.
“We are thrilled, because it’s not just about the bridge, it is about a lifetime of advocating for trails,” said Vanessa Davis, Troester’s daughter. “Anytime a new building or subdivision goes up or there’s new ownership, trails have to be forged and fought for. It is a constant battle. And my mom has been helping to fight that battle for years.”
Trails, Troester said, are in her blood. Growing up in Los Angeles County before moving to Olivenhain 38 years ago, Troester said she had a keen interest in trails since she was a child, and rode horses from the age of 5. She only stopped riding last year after surgery left her bound to a walker and her horse also died.
“When I was a little girl, my father used to work in Downtown L.A., and we would drive to Pasadena on the first freeway,” Troester said. “I would look at the surrounding hills — when there were still hills — looking for trails, so it’s kind of ingrained in me.”
She became a fierce advocate for trails in her community of Hidden Hills, an exclusive enclave in the western edge of the San Fernando Valley.
JoAnne Hubbard, a member of the Encinitas Trails Commission, also grew up in Los Angeles County, where her husband helped found the Santa Monica Mountain Trails Council. She said she was aware of Troester’s advocacy efforts well before they wound up fighting for improved and increased trails locally.
“We’re longtime trail people,” Hubbard said. “Trails bring neighborhoods together. I am so glad we were able to do this for Ellie. There’s no one more deserving of an honor like this.”
Over the years in Encinitas, trails advocates have fought for additional connections, clear signage and crosswalks, traffic control and additional trails for all users. Currently, the city has more than 40 miles of trails.
Troester said that she and the Trails Commission fought for the bridge because for years, walkers and horseback riders would have to cross the stream, which is a tributary of Escondido Creek.
“It was difficult to get the horses through there, so we had been advocating for a bridge to fix that situation for a long time,” she said.
Troester and others said Encinitas, for the most part, has been responsive to the needs and requests of trail advocates, specifically citing late City Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, current Parks Supervisor Bob Keeley and Mosca’s efforts.
“Issues come up from time to time, such as traffic and signs, cars don’t pay attention to them, or the signs are covered by bushes, and Bob (Keeley) goes out personally and looks at the situation,” Troester said.
“Maggie Houlihan did a lot when she was a (council) member, and I think Joe Mosca could be picking up where she left off,” said Babala DeMasters, a friend of Troester and a member of the coalition.
Troester said that her advocacy for trails won’t end with her recent honor. She said that traffic control and revamped crosswalks are the most pressing needs for Olivenhain’s network of trails.
“There is still work to be done,” Troester said.