Rim of Valley recreation area would protect 173,000 acres, stretch from San Fernando Valley to Pasadena
An area of the Santa Monica Mountains that sleek mountain lions, fierce bobcats and soaring raptors call home might soon double, thanks to a congressional proposal under consideration by the U.S. National Park Service.
A portion of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area known as the Rim of the Valley, mainly a collection of parkland, open space and trails, is a key component of the proposal addressed in a study of the corridor.
The study, released last week, prefers Alternative C, which would protect 173,000 acres surrounding the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena and the Los Angeles River by adding acreage to the existing recreation area located in northwest Los Angeles County and in Ventura County’s Simi Hills said Anne Dove, project manager with the National Park Service.
The draft study looked at 650,000 acres surrounding the San Fernando, Simi, Conejo and Santa Clarita valleys as well as parts of Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles.
Supporters, including the author of the proposal, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, want to designate the region as a National Recreation Area and bring in Stetson-wearing park rangers for trail upkeep, interpretive programs and if necessary, NPS-initiated land acquisition.
Environmental groups say the designation would provide better linkages for wildlife between the San Gabriel, Santa Susana and Santa Monica Mountains. Mountain lions, for example, have been killed crossing busy freeways in an effort to find a mate or food.
Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, executive director of the Community Hiking Club in Santa Clarita, said her group prefers Alternative D — a 313,000-acre addition — because it includes ranch lands in Acton. Through acquisition and easements, fences would be taken down and bobcats, mountain lions and deer would roam unmolested.
“We’ve lost two mountain lions recently, one on the 5 Freeway and one on the 14,” she said. “We need these corridors to keep these animals alive.”
In the Calabasas area, Kim Lamorie of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation has worked with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for decades. Lamorie’s group, which also supports D, wants more land preserved.
“Our homeowners associations are committed to getting the NPS to buy properties around them,” she said Monday. “We’d keep sweeping viewsheds, open space and increase property values.”
Even the scaled-down Alternative C, focusing on 173,000 acres, represents a huge area and would be a massive task for the NPS.
“There is a broad range of significant resources in the study area, and with that a broad range of opportunities,” Dove said.
The preferred option C would stretch from the eastern Simi Hills along the 118 Freeway corridor, along the Santa Susana Mountains, the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, through Big Tujunga, La Crescenta Valley, La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena, Eaton Canyon, Sierra Madre, west Pasadena, the San Rafael Hills and the nonforest parts of the Arroyo Seco. In eastern Los Angeles, the boundary would include the Los Angeles River corridor along the 5 Freeway, including Griffith Park, the western Hollywood Hills, the Sepulveda Basin and the spot where L.A. began, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, also known as Olvera Street, Dove said.
Robert Garcia, director of The City Project, a parks and environmental justice advocacy group, said linking downtown and northeast L.A. with rural areas would connect minority communities to parks, trails and open space.
During meetings held the last three years, Schiff and about 5,000 commenters favored an expanded NRA combining Alternatives C and D.
“I would’ve liked to have seen them go for the both options that enjoyed the overwhelming support of the public commenters,” Schiff said. “It may be something we push for during the next round of public comments as part of the final report.”
Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, called the draft study “a great first step.”
“The great thing about Alternative C is that it addresses everything: open space, protecting habitat, connecting wildlife corridors and being able to better serve underserved communities,” he said.
“I think the report is good,” said Daniel Rossman of The Wilderness Society. “It calls for greater expansion of the National Parks Service for our region and emphasizes addressing park disparities in our communities.”
Many see a Rim of the Valley NRA as a mirror image to the San Gabriel Mountains NRA proposed by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena. Though Chu’s bill is still alive in Congress, President Barack Obama stepped in on Oct. 10 and designated a large portion as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Dove said no lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service are included in any of the Rim of the Valley options. Schiff said the boundary additions would exclude the Angeles National Forest and the SGM National Monument.
Areas within the preferred alternative include a mixture of private and public lands, Dove said. If an NRA is approved, all land use decision would be made by the existing local authority, i.e., a city or county, she indicated.
The NPS would have the power to buy land, but the federal policy only allows purchases from willing sellers, said Dave Szymanski, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, a unit of the NPS.
Exact borders have not yet been determined, Dove said. Boundaries could change during the public comment period, which ends June 30. A final report is due in December or early 2016. Schiff intends to introduce a bill during the current session of Congress, he said.
Source: Los Angeles Daily News
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