Transit to Trails The City Project
Last fall, when President Barack Obama created the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, many thought the new status would mean preservation of the rugged peaks, tall pines and natural streams first recognized by President Benjamin Harrison and later brought to life by naturalist John Muir.
Not many pictured adding transit service bringing low- and moderate-income families from Los Angeles’ most impoverished communities up and down the monument. But during five open houses last week and on social media sites, transportation was one of the most mentioned planks offered for inclusion in a first-ever monument-management plan being crafted by the U.S. Forest Service.
The USFS “Need to Change” document released in early June lists four areas for improvement to the 346,177-acre monument that stretches from near Santa Clarita, through San Gabriel Canyon and the Sheep Mountain Wilderness to a portion of Mount Baldy: transportation, land use, minerals/mining and recreation.
New Forest Service Supervisor Jeffrey Vail in a letter asking for citizen input put transportation first on his list.
Environmental and Latino groups have proposed regular bus service, especially on weekends, that would connect people without cars from El Monte, East Los Angeles and other areas of the county to the national monument. One idea calls for visitors to take the Gold Line light-rail from East L.A. and Union Station to Azusa, where a dedicated bus service would carry visitors into the monument. . . .
“We are working to make the monument accessible,” explained Daniel Rossman, senior regional associate with The Wilderness Society and a member of the group, San Gabriel Mountains Forever, which lobbied for a larger National Recreation Area and then for the smaller national monument.
“We want the Forest Service to rethink how transportation is done. Instead of just road openings and closures, let’s work with Metro and get public bus routes from the new Gold Line stations,” Rossman said. . . .
“The plan should cover transportation: that is, connecting the cities to the national monument,” said John Monsen, a Pasadena-area Sierra Club volunteer and consultant for San Gabriel Mountains Forever.
Indeed, Obama’s proclamation specifically requires the Forest Service to make improvements in transportation.
In his speech Oct. 10 at Frank G. Bonelli County Regional Park in San Dimas, the president said: “It is not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight. You have to be able to access it. …”
Obama zeroed in on communities of color, saying in essence, the monument should not just exist for wealthy residents living along the San Gabriel foothills but for all Southern Californians. “Too many children in L.A. County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature and learn about their environment,” he said. “This is an issue of social justice.”
About 3.5 million people visit the Angeles National Forest every year, according to a survey-estimate from the Forest Service from 2000. Some are worried that Transit to Trails could increase crowds. . . .
The Forest Service’s survey found that 79 percent of the visitors to the Angeles were white, 11 percent Latino, 1.1 percent African-American and 4.5 percent Asian. Giving better access to federal lands helps communities of color with fewer park options, according to The City Project, an advocacy group that supported the monument.
“Although the Angeles and the national monument are within an hour’s drive of most people in L.A. with a car, if you don’t have access to a car, there is no way to get there,” said Robert Garcia, the group’s founding director.
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In the U.S. Forest Service’s “Need to Change” analysis, these issues will be considered:
• Transportation: A transit plan must be developed to improve access
• Land use: Some land uses need to be updated to reflect new wilderness designations
• Mining and minerals: New mining or oil and gas (mineral) extractions are prohibited, except those governed by the Materials Act of 1947 (sand, gravel, stone). Only valid existing claims will be honored.
• Recreation: Ensure recreational settings, opportunities and access will meet public expectations.
• Historical places: Assuring the “proper care and management” of historic places and places of scientific interest such as Mount Wilson Observatory.
• 99 percent is in the Angeles National Forest; 1 percent in the San Bernardino National Forest.
For a map of the monument, go to http://tinyurl.com/ng3dra5.• Comments are accepted through July 27 by visiting http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=46964 or they can be mailed to Justin Seastrand, on behalf of Angeles National Forest Supervisor, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave., Arcadia, CA 91006.
Every agency that has considered it supports Transit to Trails programs.