A Westwood Hills hiker who was airlifted to the hospital after hurting her foot at the park earlier this month has raised concerns about the park’s safety.
Zoe Rodriguez of New York said she received surgery last week for a fractured fibula and torn ligament after she hiked the slope during a trip to Yountville for her 50th birthday. Rodriguez, who said she hikes frequently, said she was hiking a steep section of Westwood Hills with a group of friends when they saw a meandering side trail and took that path instead. It was overgrown and poorly maintained, she said, but her group eventually made it to the top with the help of some other hikers.
When they were ready to descend, they followed another group down a slippery trail that caused her and a friend to fall, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez called for more signs and maintenance along the trails.
“It shocked me that I was the only one who was injured out of our entire group,” she said. “This is a public park. Nowhere on (the sign) does it warn to use paths at (your) own risk.”
The City of Napa says that it’s in the process of naming the trails and making signs.
But Westwood Hills Park, which is one of four parks operated by the city and Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, isn’t manicured like other parks because it’s meant to cater to people who like a more natural hiking experience among topographical features, said David Perazzo, Parks and Urban Forestry manager for Napa’s Parks and Recreation Services.
“The park is not a dangerous place,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when things happen like this, but we do advise people that you have to be cautious” when walking in a natural area with slopes or hillsides.
Though fire officials reported a second hiker was rescued from Westwood Hills days after Rodriguez’s fall, Napa Fire Department Capt. Ty Becerra said it’s rare that officials are called to Westwood Hills for emergency calls. Some people have been rescued after wandering off the main trail or injuring their ankle on rocks or uneven dirt, he said.
City: Park is safe, but needs changes
Westwood Hills is an 11-acre park with 16 trails, said David Youdell, who supervises the Friends of Westwood Park program on behalf of the city.
Some additional trails are made by deer, Perazzo said. Those trails are worn down and may appear like regular trails to some, and the city is considering either blocking them off or returning them to natural areas.
“People can think that they’re following a trail that might not be that way,” he said.
Much about Westwood Hills has remained the same since it first became a park in 1975, including the native and non-native species on the grounds, he said. Some of the current trails were adapted from fire roads.
The number of trails has grown over time, as groups such as California Conservation Corps and Cal Fire have further developed trails.
There were six or seven trails in the 1990s marked with small signs and trail markers, but those since have since been damaged or vandalized, Perazzo said. Friends of Westwood Park asked the public to help it name existing trails, with the eventual goal of having a map and signs throughout the park.
All 55 parks in the City of Napa are maintained at a level that Parks and Recreation Services deems safe for the public, Perazzo said.
“But there’s things over time that need to be updated,” he said.