Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dreaming of an Arroyo Seco Greenway

I rode my bicycle along the Ventura River Trail/Ojai Valley Trail over Memorial Day Weekend, taking in the sites and thinking about how wonderful it would be to take such a ride right here in the great urban metropolis that includes Los Angeles and Pasadena.

For many years, several of us have shared the dream of a 'trail,' 'multi-use path' or whatever label you want to call it that would connect the wonderful trails along the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and South Pasadena southward to include the historic Arroyo communities of NorthEast Los Angeles.

This is not a new idea. Pasadena Mayor Horace Dobbins worked and actually built the first phase of a Pasadena-Los Angeles Cycleway in the late 1800s, which is today the site of the part of the Arroyo Seco Scenic Parkway (Pasadena Freeway). In 1990, Pasadena Mayor Jess Hughston formed a task force to promote bicycle riding. One recommendation of this group, led by bicycle activist Dennis Crowley, was to revive the California Cycleway plan of Dobbins.

More recently, the County of Los Angeles built an in-channel bicycle path that travels almost 2 miles from the York Blvd Bridge to the Montecito Heights Recreation Center near Avenue 43. Plans to continue this in-channel bicycle path were abandoned after safety and environmental concerns were expressed, although dialogue continues to create at least a partial bikeway
linkage with funds already committed for the project.

While riding along the Ventura River, I marveled at the great trail design ~ a paved asphalt bikeway/walkway separated from equestrian riders by a split rail fence. The signage was clear and helpful and the trail was well designed, with turn-offs into several local parks, including the famous Libbey Bowl.

It got me wondering about the 21st Century efforts of the Arroyo Seco Foundation and other community groups to create an Arroyo Seco Greenway that would integrate a pedestrian pathway, bicycle cycleway, and, dare I wish for it, an equestrian trail along publically owned land, right of ways, and conservation easements next to the Arroyo Seco. This Greenway would not only provide a great urban nature transportation corridor but would provide non-automobile access to some of the Arroyo's great treasures: The Audubon Center at Debs Park, Sycamore Grove Park (Los Angeles' oldest park), and the Lummis House, center of Arroyo Culture at the turn of the 20th Century.

One of the highlights of my Ventura River bicycle ride was stopping by the fabulous bicyclists waystation at Foster Park, complete with bicycle racks, CLEAN modern restrooms, and picnic area. I soon found out why these great facilities were there: within a short walk was the beautiful Ventura River itself, with flowing waters and picknickers catching crawfish and minnows and actually swimming in the river!

What fun would that be to fish, picnic and swim along the Arroyo Seco, the way it was for thousands of Angelenos before the River's channelization in the 1930s!

I learned a lot from my Ojai Valley-Ventura River bike trail ride, most of all that people will believe in the Arroyo Seco Greenway when they can SEE it. I think it's time for a design competition to find the best integrated Greenway plan that captures all the elements of urban nature: non-automobile transportation trails, ecosystem restoration, fishing pools (like Troutdale in Agoura, my favorite!!!!) and shallow side pools for wading in the water.

What do you think? Is it time for the best and the brightest environmental planners and landscape architects to show us what they've got?

Why not join us for the Tour de Arroyo on May 30th, in memory of Dennis Crowley, and ride along Southern California's most romantic river. (details: You might even get inspired to create the Greenway Plan yourself!

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