Residents weigh in on Rim of the Valley expansion options at town hall

A town hall forum in La Cañada Monday asked residents to weigh in on a recent National Park Service report that calls for potentially expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include the Rim of the Valley corridor of regional mountains.

The NPS environmental assessment for the project explains how the 1,000-square-mile study area — which includes portions of the San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains, San Rafael Hills and the Arroyo Seco corridors — might be better managed and conserved if they were included as part of the federally protected recreation area.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who's worked for the past 13 years to get citizens and legislators to support the idea of a large-scale conservation effort, hosted the forum at Descanso Gardens.


"I'm here tonight to discuss what I think is the very exciting potential for a very dramatic expansion of our parks in Los Angeles," Schiff said in his opening remarks, explaining how he helped introduce a bill in 2003 to authorize the study.


He explained how the National Park Service report considered four alternatives, including a "do nothing" option. While alternative A would maintain the current land management systems, alternative B calls for deepening cooperative efforts among the park service, partner agencies and landowners within the study area, in part through added funding to the NPS.


Alternatives C and D, on the other hand, suggest legislation calling for a boundary adjustment for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to allow for greater recreational opportunities and habitat linkages in sections of land close to urban areas.


The difference between these two options is primarily their size and scope, explained NPS Project Manager Anne Dove. While C proposes an approximately 173,000-acre addition, option D would expand the SMMNRA by about 313,000 acres.


In its draft report, the park service recommended alternative C, claiming that the larger proposed area's many landowners and managers would be complex and hard to broker.


"D is a pretty significant alternative in terms of its size," Dove said. "We felt that alternative C would yield the greatest return on the park service's investment."


Schiff, on the other hand, encouraged residents and conservationists to support D, because it would geographically ensure a wildlife corridor connecting the recreation area with the federally protected Angeles and Los Padres national forests.


Rorie Skei, chief deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy — which helped the city of La Cañada acquire land for the establishment of its Cherry Canyon recreation area and paid for a grant in 2012 to develop and protect the Flint Wash Trail — said Monday she supported the expansion alternatives.


"The template of expanding the park boundaries or establishing a new park really helps the whole region in achieving conservation goals," Skei said Monday.


The public comment window for the Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resource Study is open through June 30. A copy of the draft report is available online at nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley. Citizens with questions can contact NPS Project Manager Anne Dove at (323) 441-9307.


An upcoming local meeting, hosted by the National Park Service, will take place Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the La Crescenta Public Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta.

Source: Glendale News-Press