Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August Happenings on the Los Angeles River & The Arroyo Seco

It's hard to believe it's August already with the summer quickly moving along. Here's some of the latest goings on with the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco.

1. The big exciting news is that the US Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits to allow a 'Pilot Non-Motorized Boating Program' to take place on the Los Angeles River in the Sepulveda Basin area over a 6-week weekend test period.

Dignitaries from far and wide attended the August 8th 'kick-off' event, including USACE Colonel Mark Toy, LA Conservation Corps Executive Bruce Saito (whose organization is the lead agency for the pilot program), kayak activist George Wolfe, Melanie Winter of The River Project, Miguel Luna from Urban Semillas, and Lupe Vela, LA City Liaison to the Los Angeles River Committee. Political heavyweights included Joe Edminston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, LA City Councilmember Tony Cardenas (in whose district the pilot program will take place) and LA City Councilmember Ed Reyes, whose vision and commitment over many years to revitalize the LA River was noted.
Once the official festivities ended, it was time to get the boats in the water! While this was a short ceremonial paddle in the LA River, it heralded the beginning of a new era of river access for the public.

The pilot program sold out within minutes of opening for reservations, so it won't be possible to participate in this month's paddling events if you are not already one of the lucky persons with reservations. Organizers are hopeful, though, that this initial pilot program's success will facilitate expanded boating access to the LA River soon.

2. If you are not a fortunate paddler, don't dismay. Friends of the Los Angeles River (http://www.folar.org/) is offering 90-minute docent led walks along the LA River in the Sepulveda Basin highlighting this historic non-motorized boating program beginning August 21st. Reservations are required - free to FoLAR members - $10 donation for non-members.

3. Feel like getting your hands dirty? River lovers have two opportunities this Saturday, August 20th:

The Arroyo Seco Foundation (http://www.arroyoseco.org/) is hosting a Central Arroyo Stream clean-up from 9:30am to 11:30am to remove trash and invasive species in the naturalized area of the Arroyo Seco just south of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.  Park at the south end of Brookside Parking Lot I near the Aquatic Center and meet at the picnic tables in the south end of the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. Wear sturdy shoes, working clothes, a hat, and sunscreen. Tools and trash bags will be provided. It's a fun way to enjoy and help nature at the same time.

Live on the other side of LA? Why not join the Village Gardeners from 9:00am to noon for some native plant landscape maintenance along the LA River in Studio City at the Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom, 13236 Valleyheart Drive (south side of The River, 1/2 block east of Fulton)? Wear closed toed shoes and bring a hat and sunscreen. Tools and gloves will be provided. Refreshments, too! RVSP to rrabins@villagegardeners.org or 818-667-7605.

4. The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (http://thelariver.com/) has two upcoming events as well: Their Board of Directors holds its quarterly meeting on Wednesday, August 17th, 5:30pm to 7:30pm, in the Mayor's Press Conference Room at Los Angeles City Hall. September 11 from 3:30pm to 5:30pm, marks LARRC's inaugural community event, Let's Talk River, honoring Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes.

Finally, if you just want to get out and enjoy urban nature this month, check out the recreational opportunities along the Arroyo Seco, including the Arroyo Seco Trail Guide here: http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/PublicWorks/arroyo_recreation_and_activities/

Friday, August 5, 2011

Riding Along the Arroyo Seco on the Back of a Horse

Once in awhile, serendipity creates a great adventure.

Such was the case last week when I spotted a friend bathing one of his horses on a weekday afternoon. Surprisingly, we both had finished with work early that day and before I knew it, he said, "Let's go riding!"

For a horse lover like me, I jump at the chance to ride whenever I can, so we took off on our trusted steeds, him on Maya, me on Lobo (seen here) for what I thought would be an hour ride from the Altadena Crest Trail to the Loma Alta Equestrian Arena.

But you can't stop horse people when they are having a great ride on a beautiful summer's afternoon. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to ride all the way down to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (a four hour round trip ride, I might add)!

And what a great ride it was! Entering the Hahamongna Basin eastside trail from Altadena Drive, we enjoyed a slow quiet ride through one of Pasadena's great urban nature corridors. The birds were singing, the air was fresh from a slight breeze and the Arroyo Seco was still full of water, unusual this late in the summer season. Except for the passing of an occasional walker and photographer, we had the trail all to ourselves.

Soon we were travelling through the Devil's Gate Bridge tunnel down the trail to the Central Arroyo. I especially loved riding this section - so natural and quiet with the unchannelized Arroyo Seco stream to our right, gurgling along.

Civilization in the form of Brookside golfers and Rose Bowl Loop bicyclists and joggers soon appeared as we turned onto Washington Blvd to Parkview towards the westside Arroyo Seco trail heading back northward.

This was my first time on the Central Arroyo Seco westside trail and what a delight! Most of this trail is shadowed by old age oak trees on one side with a bucolic view of Brookside Golf Course on the other. My unflappable horse, who calmly walked down city streets, past bicyclists, cars, and joggers, stopped and perked up his ears each time a golfer teed off and the 'whiff' sound filled the air.

I really loved being on the westside trail which brought us right next to the Arroyo Seco stream north of the golf course. In fact, we had to cross the stream, about ankle deep, to reconnect to the trail back into the Hahamongna and northward home. What fun!

Sir Winston Churchill once said that 'the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man' (or woman!) and this adage was no more true than while on this ride along the Arroyo Seco.  It's incredible that it's possible to ride (or walk!) streamside in an urbanized area of Southern California....yet feel totally in nature.

I can't wait to continue my horseback riding adventures along the Arroyo Seco and look forward to future trips both northward into the Angeles National Forest and southward into the Lower Arroyo Seco and South Pasadena Nature Parks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Los Angeles River Chosen for New Urban Waters Federal Partnership

The Los Angeles River has been chosen as one of seven river watersheds nationwide to participate in the new pilot program of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. This pilot program aims to revitalize growing American cities and the natural resources that surround them.

This new national partnership aligns the programmatic goals of the White House's Great Outdoors Initiative and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to link economic revitalization with environmental sustainability.

Designed to break down federal government agency 'silos,' while promoting collaboration among federal, state, local agencies and non-profit and community-based environmental organizations, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership selected the Los Angeles River Watershed in part because more than 70% of its residents live more than a quarter mile from a park or open space, resulting in a lack of access to such environmental resources as clean air and potable water. The LA River was also cited for its success record in current federal colloboration efforts along the river corridor, especially in working with disadvantaged communities.

The focus of this new partnership is on revitalizing local watershed efforts, including enhancing flood control, improving water quality through green infrastructure, enabling safe public river access, and restoring ecosystems.

Examples of ongoing work where local communities in the Los Angeles River Watershed are engaged in partnerships with federal agencies are the: Station Fire Restoration, Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration, South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, Hansen Dam Wetlands/Stormwater Treament/Park Expansion Project, the Elmer Street Neighborhood Retrofit, and Disadvantaged Community Outreach Education Program.

The Partnership's immediate focus is on facilitating more economic development, especially in the Clean Tech Corridor; more recreational river access opportunities; more outdoor education in partnership with the LA Unified School District; and enhanced focus on conservation of the region's scarce water supply.

Spearheaded by leadership from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), participating federal agencies include the US Department of Agriculture (USDA); Department of the Army - Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); US Department of Commerce - Economic Development Administration (EDA); US Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); US Department of Health and Human Services - US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP); US Department of Health and Human Services - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); US Department of the Interior (DOI); and US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The six other American river watersheds selected for this federal pilot program include: Anacostia Watershed, District of Columbia/Maryland; Patapsco Watershed, Baltimore Region, Maryland; Bronx & Harlem River Watersheds, New York; South Platte River, Denver, Colorado; Lake Ponchartrain Area, New Orleans, Louisiana; and the Northwest Indiana Urban Corridor along the Lake Michigan Shoreline.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Pasadena Open Space & Conservation Element Update Points to a Sustainable Future

While local activists debate sediment removal in the Hahamongna at tonight's City Council meeting, another meeting will be taking place with a Pasadena City-appointed committee of citizens who have quietly been working for the past year and a half on the updating of the Open Space & Conservation Element to the City of Pasadena General Plan.

Under current State law, all California cities must periodically update their general plans, addressing such elements as housing, transportation, and health. The current committee has been working diligently with City staff and community stakeholders to both update the current Open Space & Conservation Element and integrate these general plan elements with the Green Space Element approved by the City in 2007 as well as the City's Green City Action Plan for sustainability (air quality, water quality/conservation and energy/greenhouse gas reductions).

After months of fact-finding, deliberation, community outreach meetings, walkabouts, and review of numerous plans and studies, the draft document for the Open Space & Conservation Element has been completed and will now be circulated to other City Commissions, including the Environmental Advisory Commission and the Recreation and Parks Commission, for review before reaching the Pasadena City Council for final approval.

The 63 page document, which can be accessed by clicking this blog's headline, provides a comprehensive overview of current City natural elements, conservation partners, sustainability issues, and urban nature needs within a framework to guide the City for future open space acquisitions and current open space stewardship. It was particularly gratifying to see in this report the extensive attention placed on the role that open space and conservation plays relative to water conservation and sustainable building practices.

The Open Space & Conservation Element Committee meets tonight at 6:45pm in the Grand Conference Room in the Basement of Pasadena City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and will be a fascinating update on a visionary future for Pasadena's urban nature culture with an eye towards an integrated approach to sustainability.
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