Local nature lovers are hoping to pack the room tomorrow night when the National Park Service will hold a meeting in Santa Clarita to discuss their alternatives for a National Recreation Area. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Activities Center of the city’s Sports Complex on Centre Pointe Parkway.
Naturalist and Community Hiking Club Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel has been shepherding this issue since it was initially proposed two years ago. At that time, three alternatives to the current use of wild areas in the San Gabriel mountain range, none of which suited the area’s growing needs.
She provided a breakdown of the proposals:
A-Turn most of the San Gabriel Range into a NRA, but offer NO management or assistance.
B-This one was dismissed by the National Park Service when there was no support for it in the community
C-Turn the Area of the Puente/Chino Hills and the San Gabriel River into an NRA with support, staff, educational and Interpretive Services, increased trails, etc.
“We found none of these options really benefited us as a community,” she wrote. “We asked for the map area of A plus extended areas such as Bear Divide for the condors, and areas to be added in the North to include Vasquez Rocks and Devil's Punchbowl. We asked for the same management plan that they were offering in Alternative C, and added additional services, trails, condor overlooks, and much more.
“The National Park listened to what we had to say, and they added Alternative D for our consideration. Needless to say, we are backing Alternative D fully,” Erskine-Hellrigel concluded.
Support for natural areas is important and the last time the proposals were offered, more than 4,800 comments were sent to the National Park Service.
The NPS study team will open the meeting with a brief presentation on their alternatives. Then they will have discussion groups where they will take public comments.
Erskine-Hellrigel and her fellow outdoor enthusiasts encourage support for Alternative D for the following reasons:
- It would create a San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area that includes the San Gabriel Mountains, Puente-Chino Hills, the San Gabriel River, and adjacent local parks and open space.
- The National Park Service would have a lead management role in a partnership team that would manage the area. Thus, we would get their expertise in and federal resources for open space connections, educational, technical and interpretative services.
- The Forest Service would still be the lead managing agency for the San Gabriel Mountains, but would work closely with the National Park Service on all aspects. Local communities could opt in to include their adjacent parks and open space but will still manage these resources with federal assistance.
- It would bring in additional resources, rangers and staff to help the Forest Service and to help manage the National Recreation Area.
- It would create a network of parks and trails along the urban river corridors that would connect to the San Gabriel Mountains.
A National Recreation Area Should Include:
- A transit to trails program to better connect communities to the mountains and river and help alleviate traffic and parking congestion on the forest.
- Additional resources for recreation would become available such as for more picnic sites, campgrounds, interpretive programs, bilingual signage and trail restoration.
- Support for urban green space, including technical assistance to surrounding communities for recreation and conservation planning, as well outdoor education programs.
- Jobs for young people and military veterans should be supported through a dedicated conservation corps, and an outreach program to schools and education about available green jobs.
- Information on the health benefits of a San Gabriel Region National Recreation Area.
Alternative D Should Be Improved By:
- Expand the urban portion of the National Recreation Area to include more opportunities for adjacent communities to provide open space and healthy recreation for their residents.
- Including the entire San Gabriel Mountain Range, including all of the Angeles National Forest and the portion of the San Bernardino National Forest west of Interstate 15.
- Recommending the protection of additional wilderness areas and designation of wild and scenic rivers in the Angeles and San Bernardino national forests.
Those unable to attend the meeting can log in and post comments on http://www.nps.gov/pwro/sangabriel/index.htm.