Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heroes of the Hahamongna - One in a Series

Growing up in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York gave Mary Barrie a natural affinity for the mountains and nature. Perhaps that's one reason why when she and her family moved to Southern Califoronia, they settled in the San Gabriel Mountains foothills of La Canada-Flintridge.

An avid hiker, dog walker and equestrian, Mary began exploring this natural wonderland on its many varied trails and byways. These walks brought her to a meeting of the La Canada-Flintridge Trails Council, where she quickly became involved with numerous trail clearance and restoration projects.

Shortly thereafter, Mary's family became involved with Rose Bowl Riders, which for years has been a tenant of the City of Pasadena with stables, riding ring and clubhouse in the Hahamongna Watershed Park.

Many people may not know this, but the Hahamongna is almost a grand hub for hiking and horse trails that wind northward into the Angeles National Forest and southward along the scenic Arroyo Seco River into South Pasadena.

Throughout the past 21 years, Mary has watched the changes happening in the Hahamongna Basin: the closing of the gravel pit operation and the creation of the Hahamongna Watershed Park, along with the adoption of the Hahamongna Master Plan, an element of Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Specific Plan.

As meetings and discussions grew about the future uses of the Hahamongna and the Hahamongna Annex, Mary quickly moved into activist mode, using her skills as a law librarian to research both the history of this natural basin and the myriad of planning and legal documents its potential future has engendered.

Why such vigilance? Because Mary believes that the Hahamongna Watershed Park is a special rustic expanse that should not be developed and that every little 'modification,' whether a new road here or the cutting of major trees there, can easily lead to the 'slippery slope' of massive real estate development. She also wants the City to implement the Master Plan that's been officially approved and is concerned about how plan elements are being nibbled around the edges by proposed staff modifications not formally adopted within the Master Plan approved by the Pasadena City Council in 2003. When discussing her passion for Hahamongna, Mary notes the many efforts over the past century to construct everything from amphitheatres to museums on this unique parcel, which also plays a key role in the City of Pasadena's water future due to its storage capacity behind Devil's Gate Dam and its spreading fields.

Even if you haven't met Mary, you probably already know her if you attend any community or city commission/council open space, environmental, or recreation meetings in Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge. Yes, she is relentless. Yes, she sometimes irritates people because she can be seen as an obstructionist to 'progress.'

But Mary is passionate about the Hahamongna and this passion keeps her vigilant even after 10 long years of activism. For Mary is not looking at just the Hahamongna of today ~ she sees herself as a just another person in a long continuum of community leaders who have helped Hahamongna beat the odds for over a century and remain a beautiful expanse of natural, biodiverse open space where people can enjoy passive recreation through hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, disc golf, and just sitting and meditating among the beautiful, mature grove of oak trees.

Mary's forward vision and activism to keep the Hahamongna rustic for future generations is why she is a Hero of the Hahamongna.

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