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Diversifying Access to and Support for the San Gabriel Mountains and Recreation Area

San Gabriel Mountains Environmental and Health Justice for All

Community Applauds Bill that Will Benefit Families, Promote Health and Environmental Justice, Protect Clean Water Access, Increase Tourism Revenue

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA 27) has introduced legislation to provide permanent protections for, and local control over, the San Gabriel Mountains, rivers and parks for millions of Southern California residents and visitors. “The Los Angeles region is one of the most park poor regions of the country. We face two challenges as a result: there are very few options for Angelenos to enjoy the outdoors, and the options we do have are under immense stress from overuse,” said Rep. Chu. “After a decade of consideration and collaboration, I am proud to introduce legislation protecting these mountains that’s consistent with our community needs and priorities.” Rep. Chu continued, “This has been a community effort from the very beginning. The vision of this NRA began with the community and it will be realized by the community.”

sangabriels20140615

Community celebrates permanent protections for, and local control over, San Gabriels

The spectacular San Gabriel Mountains are home to often snow-capped alpine peaks, pine forests, chaparral hills, waterfalls and wild, free-flowing rivers. It is essential habitat for endangered and sensitive species including the Nelson’s Bighorn sheep, California condor, mountain lion, and the Santa Ana sucker. The bill will protect the Angeles National Forest, which provides 70 percent of Los Angeles County’s open space and one-third of its drinking water. 17 million people live within an hour’s drive. The legislation provides for a diverse public advisory council, comprehensive management and visitor plans, and a partnership among federal, state, tribal, and local authorities and the private sector. The public advisory council will include environmental justice representation to ensure the area serves the needs of all people, including people of color and low-income people.

Los Angeles County is one of the most disadvantaged counties in terms of access to parks and open space for children of color and people of color. The National Park Service notes that county averages mask dramatic disparities in access to green space within the county. Non-Hispanic whites currently have disproportionately greater access to parks and open space, compared to Latinos and African-Americans. These groups are 12-15 times more likely to have less park acreage per capita when compared to non-Hispanic whites. Communities with the least amount of access to parks and open space tend to have higher rates of childhood diseases related to obesity such as diabetes.

SG_NRA_LAC-2010(1)CHU_ParkAccessChildOfColorPovertyNoCar

The Los Angeles region is one of the most park poor in the country. Click on the map to see larger sizes and analyses.

According to the National Park Service, economically disadvantaged people in the study area lack access and the ability to enjoy existing opportunities due to lack of close-to-home open space, effective transportation, culturally advantageous facilities or opportunities, and knowledge about recreation and natural resources. Environmental justice must be considered in every major federal action by assessing environmental factors that negatively or disproportionately affect minority populations. Work and stewardship programs for at risk youth, and Transit to Trails programs to take urban residents to mountain, beach, and river trips, help address these concerns.

Within the proposed national recreation area, 64% of the population is Hispanic, 17% Asian Pacific Islander, 16% non-Hispanic white, and 1% African American and Native American. Statewide, the numbers are 37% Hispanic, 13% Asian Pacific Islander, 41% non-Hispanic white, 6% African American, and 1% Native American.

Bridge to Nowhere East Branch San Gabriel River

Nelson’s Bighorn Sheep on East Fork San Gabriel River

San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) joined thousands of residents to support the vision to protect the San Gabriel range, its rivers and urban parks that make up Los Angeles’ backyard. The vision of San Gabriel Mountains Forever is: Protection and enhancement of our mountains, rivers and parks with access for all. Click here for the SGMF statement on the legislation in English and Fact Sheet in Spanish.

Xavier Morales, Executive Director of Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, notes that protecting the San Gabriels aligns with “our mission to address inequities in the environmental conditions that contribute to health disparities among our communities. Lack of recreational opportunities has severe impacts on urban populations struggling with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic illness. Opportunities to enjoy outdoor activity are vital for public health and the well-being of people of all ages and walks of life.”

The Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance supports the legislation because their mission is, according to Program Director Scott Chan, “to empower Asian and Pacific Islander communities to improve their health by proactively addressing social, cultural, environmental, and political factors that contribute to the growing rates of obesity among API residents in Los Angeles County.”

Robert Bracamontes writes: “I am Acjachemen, Nican Tlaca, indigenous to this land. For us the land gives us food, a place to play peon, a place where we are put to rest in peace, a place for ceremony, a place where life and culture are one. We need our land, we need to protect it for future generations. This is about a living breathing tribe thousands of years old. It is about all of my living relatives, my Ancestors, and the new lives entering the world today.”

Daphne Calmes, Interim Dean, Charles Drew University, recognizes that “wellness and prevention strategies, including access to recreation and healthy green space, are key elements to improve health for all.”

Tom Hayden, activist, author, and former senator, writes: “The racial and socio-economic disparities in public access to wilderness and recreation areas has been painfully clear to me for some time. Progress towards environmental and social justice is achievable with effective political leadership, the exposure of disparities, and the committed work of community-based coalitions.

Dennis Arguelles, L.A. Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association, writes: “National Park units have proven to generate ten dollars in economic activity for local communities for every one dollar invested in tax-payer support. For every two Park Service jobs created in a park, one job is created outside the park.”

Diverse allies who submitted public comments on health and environmental justice include the following:

Anahuak Youth Sports Association, Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance, Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, Robert Bracamontes, Acjachemen Nation, California Latino Congreso, The City Project, Charles Drew University, Conservation Law Foundation, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, Tom Hayden, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC), Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute), Multicultural Communities for Mobility, National Parks Conservation Association, National Recreation and Parks Association, Sierra Club Environmental Justice & Community Partnerships Program, Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).

Bridge to Nowhere East Branch San Gabriel River

Hiking the East Fork Bridge to Nowhere Trail

Members who cosponsor the legislation include Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28), and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29). Former Labor Secretary and Rep. Hilda Solis introduced the 2003 bill that led to the National Park Service study. Ms. Solis wrote the statutory definition of environmental justice as a member of the California assembly.

Additional information is available at the following links:

  • A summary of Rep. Chu’s legislation and a list of supporters can be found here.
  • A planning map of Rep. Chu’s legislation can be found here.
  • The text of the legislation can be found here.
  • www.sangabrielmountains.org

Click here for the Policy Brief on San Gabriel Mountains Environmental and Health Justice for All.

The Proposed San Gabriel National Recreation Area

Congresswoman Judy Chu has emphasized public health and environmental justice as two of the main reasons why the region needs a national recreation area in the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains: "Los Angeles is the most park-poor region in the United States. New York City has more park space than L.A. Lack of recreational opportunities – large or small – has severe impacts on urban populations struggling with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic illness. Opportunities to enjoy outdoor activity are vital for public health and the well being of people of all ages and walks of life." We agree!

A diverse and growing alliance of committed advocates for equal justice, public health, and green space, working with the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign and others, have submitted public comments in support of fully-funded balanced, comprehensive legislation to designate a National Recreation Area, wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers with access for all. The planned legislation should consider the impact on all communities, including communities of color and low-income communities, to ensure the benefits of a National Recreation Area are distributed fairly. It should analyze green access, health justice, active living, local green jobs, and impacts on people, as well as environmental impacts.

The planned legislation presents a tremendous opportunity to implement a national best practice example for health and environmental justice for all. Comprehensive legislation will enable all the people of the region and beyond to have equal access to green space and places for healthy recreation. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and communities to seek equal justice, democracy, and livability for all.

Click here for The City Project and diverse allies' recommendations for legislation to designate a National Recreation Area, wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers with access for all.

Photo ofJudy Chu with The City Project and diverse allies at local park opening in El Monte, CA.
Judy Chu with The City Project and diverse allies at local park opening in El Monte, CA.

NPS Recommends Designation of National Recreation Area

Woman cycling through mountains

The National Park Service (NPS) released the Final Study Recommendations for the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study in April 2013. NPS seeks to "work in a coordinated fashion, on a regional basis, to address equitable access to open space, protection of significant resources, and interpretation and education about significant resources. Existing NPS assistance programs are currently insufficient to address these needs in the study area," according to the study.

The final study is a best practice example for park agencies to improve environmental justice, environmental quality, and public health. A recreation area would go a long way to ensure access to green space and better health for park poor, income poor communities.

Click here to read the rest of the column National Park Service Recommends Designation of San Gabriel and Santa Monica National Recreation Area at KCET Departures.

NPS National Recreation Area Could Improve Access, Ease Park Disparities

The National Park Service (NPS) draft study of the proposed national recreation area for the San Gabriel Mountains focuses on improving access to green space and easing park disparities in the Los Angeles region.

Citing the work of The City Project and others, NPS highlights:

  • Statewide, Los Angeles County is one of the most disadvantaged counties for parks and green space for children and people of color.
  • People of color are less likely to have access to parks. Non Hispanic Whites have disproportionately greater access to parks and green space, compared to Latinos and African-Americans. These groups are 12-15 times more likely to have less park acreage per capita when compared to Non Hispanic Whites.
  • County averages can mask dramatic disparities in access to green space within the county.

The NPS draft study is a best practice for how to analyze green access, health, and equal justice under the President’s Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. Click here to read the most relevant sections of the draft NPS study, citing the work of The City Project and others.

This is an important step to address social equity, human health, economic vitality and job creation, and cultural and spiritual values, in addition to impacts on the natural environment. The City Project and diverse allies recommend strengthening Alternative D by (1) creating local green jobs that reflect the diversity of the region, (2) implementing Transit to Trails programs to take urban youth and their family and friends to natural green spaces, (3) serving diverse needs by including both active and passive recreation, (4) studying, celebrating, and preserving cultural, heritage, and public art sites, (5) developing culturally- and language-appropriate facilities, signage, and programming, (6) complying with equal justice laws and principles for equal access to public resources, (7) expanding the NRA boundaries to include the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo River corridors, urban communities south of the San Gabriel Mountains, and nearby cultural, art and heritage sites, (8) expanding the NRA boundaries to ensure connectivity among urban areas along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers, Puente-Chino Hills, and Chino Hills State Park, and (9) funding fully the proposed NRA.

Click to read the public comments submitted by the diverse allies below, who are part of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition.

Click here to access NPS San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study draft summary.

Read the KCET Departures column Bringing the San Gabriel Mountains Closer to the People by Robert García.

Click to access The City Project’s most recent policy report on green access and equity: Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities: Mapping Green Access and Equity for Southern California.

The following allies submitted the public comments: Robert Bracamontes, Yu-va’-tal ‘A’lla-mal (Black Crow), Acjachemen Nation, Juaneño Tribe; Anahuak Youth Soccer Association; Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance; Jack K. Shu, California State Parks (retired); The City Project; Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles; Earthwise Productions, Inc.; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC); Mia Lehrer & Associates, Landscape Architects; Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust; PolicyLink; Natural Resources Defense Council; Marc Brenman, Social Justice Policy Consultant; Nina S. Roberts, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University (for identification only); SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center).

NPS Highlights Transit To Trails for Inner City Youth

The National Parks Service (NPS) draft study of the proposed national recreation area for the San Gabriel Mountains cites work of The City Project and its allies to diversify access to and support for mountains, beaches, and rivers through Transit to Trails.

NPS Significant Efforts Needed To Ensure Park Access for Communities of Color

The National Park Service (NPS) acknowledges access to parks and recreational facilities for communities of color is a serious concern. “[C]ommunities of color and children have disproportionately low access to parks and open space in Los Angeles County,” according to NPS draft study of the proposed national recreation area in the San Gabriels.

Citing The City Project’s work, NPS found “many families in the low income neighborhoods of the region often do not have cars nor are near public transportation systems that allow for access to regional parks.”

NPS recognizes that “significant efforts will need to take place to ensure sufficient opportunities for diverse recreational experiences in the future.” Community groups, civic leaders, and government agencies are working to create and maintain open space in the Los Angeles area that can be used for recreation, biking, walking, equestrian, plant nursery, and other activities.

“As many of these opportunity areas span political boundaries and are beyond local municipality control, a regional, effective, and comprehensive approach should be taken when examining these opportunity sites. In doing so, barriers related to the relatively fragmented political character of these cities must be overcome so as to ensure effective and comprehensive management policies for regional recreation and open space planning,” NPS stated.

NPS Best Practice Example for Environmental Justice Analysis of Green Access and Health

The National Park Service (NPS) draft study of the proposed national recreation area for the San Gabriel Mountains is a best practice for how to analyze green access, health, and equal justice under the President's Order 12898 on Environmental Justice.

NPS emphasizes: "[D]isadvantaged populations in the study area lack access and the ability to partake of existing opportunities due to lack of close-to-home open space, lack of effective transportation, lack of culturally advantageous facilities or opportunities, and lack of knowledge about recreation and natural resources. Under current conditions, all contribute to an impact on these populations. . . . [E]ach action alternative attempts to remedy these current conditions to provide a net beneficial result."

Click here to read the most relevant sections of the draft NPS study, citing the work of The City Project and others.

The San Gabriel National Recreation Area, Jobs and Justice


The summer of '63

The boom, not the slump, is the right time for fiscal austerity, as John Meynard Keynes emphasized. Funding for National Parks will promote the simple joys of being in the park, jobs, health, heritage, and conservation, with equal justice for all. Much remains to be done and now is no time to cut back. If you want a national recreation area, work for jobs--and justice. Click here to read our column at KCET Departures.

The City Project and Diverse Allies Submit Public Comments in Support of Alternative D

Diverse allies have submitted public comments to the National Park Service in support of the proposed National Recreation Area to bring the San Gabriel Mountains closer to the people – and take the people to the mountains.

View of the San Gabriel Mountains from the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area.

The allies recommend that NPS strengthen and implement Alternative D in the draft study that NPS published in September 2011.   The specific recommendations include the following:

1. Create local green jobs that reflect the diversity of the region through training, apprenticeship and stewardship programs for youth and local residents.  If you want a national recreation area, work for jobs – and justice.

2. Implement Transit to Trails programs to take urban youth and their families and friends on fun, educational and healthy hiking, biking and camping trips to mountains, rivers and other natural green spaces for no or low cost. A Transit to Trails program should incorporate education about land, water, wildlife, and cultural history, and the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for life-long health.

3. Serve diverse needs and the full range of values at stake through a fully funded, balanced NRA that includes hiking, biking and camping as well as active recreation including soccer, baseball and other sports fields, complete green streets with biking trails and safe routes to school, and the joint use of parks, schools and pools within the NRA.  Greening the San Gabriel River is a best practice example for urban areas throughout the nation under the proposed NRA, and under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

4. Study, celebrate and preserve cultural, heritage and public art sites, and Native American sites to celebrate diversity, democracy and freedom.

5. Develop culturally- and language-appropriate facilities, signage, and programming.

6. Comply with equal justice laws and principles for equal access to public resources, including the President’s 1994 Order 12898 on Environmental Justice, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations

7. Expand the NRA boundaries to include more of the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo River corridors, urban communities south of the San Gabriels and nearby cultural, art and heritage sites.

8. Expand the NRA boundaries to ensure connectivity among urban areas along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers, Puente-Chino Hills, and Chino Hills State Park.

9. Fully fund the proposed NRA.

A Diverse and Robust San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area

The San Gabriel Valley suffers from some of the highest childhood obesity and diabetes rates in California.  The San Gabriel Valley also severely lacks parks and open space where families, young people and seniors can exercise and recreate.  This health crisis and lack of open space have brought together a diverse and growing alliance in the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign to create the San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area. Download information about the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Campaign in English and Spanish.  

The San Gabriel Mountains represent almost 70% of the open space in Los Angeles County and are in the largest “urban” forest in the nation. 10 million people live within an hour’s drive of these mountains, which provide opportunities for recreation and physical activity, as well as education, spirituality, and an escape from the stresses of urban life.  The San Gabriel watershed provides about 1/3 of the drinking water for local communities and is a critical source of environmental benefits such as clean air and clean water.

The San Gabriel Valley is ethnically and economically diverse. Unfortunately, people of color do not enjoy equal access to the region's recreation and natural space resources. Latinos are nearly 50% of the population, but only 11% of visitors to Angeles National Forest are Latinos. While 25% of residents are Asian, less than 5% of Angeles visitors are Asian. Only 1% of Angeles visitors and 0% of visitors to wilderness areas in the forest are black.

San Gabriel National Recreation Area

One strategy for improving access to places for physical activity in the San Gabriel Mountains is the creation of a diverse and robust San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area. The San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign is coordinating a region- and nation-wide push for the creation of a National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. We are diversifying support for and access to the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains and the proposed National Recreation Area.

Transit to Trails

Transit to Trails can improve access to the national parks and forests including the proposed San Gabriel National Recreation Area.  Transit to Trails can take inner city children on fun, educational and healthy trips to mountains, beaches, rivers and other green space throughout the nation, for low or no cost compared to the benefits. Transit to Trails enriches education about land, water, wildlife, and cultural history, and the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for life-long health, for children and their families and friends.

Although inner city children in Los Angeles live only an hour from mountains and beaches, many have never been there, because parents often work two or more jobs, and do not have access to cars or to information to plan trips. Transit to Trails is diversifying access to and support for parks and forests -- and letting people have fun doing it!

Transit to Trails serves all people, but is particularly useful to the working poor with limited or no access to cars. Transit to Trails provides choices to people who have none. Transit to Trails helps reduce traffic congestion and parking problems, improves air quality, and reduces run-off of polluted water into rivers and the ocean. It helps reduce dependency on the automobile and fossil fuels.

Why Does Equal Access to Parks, Forests and Recreation Matter

The San Gabriel Mountains offer multiple benefits: the simple joys of being in parks and forests; social cohesion, or bringing people together; improved physical, psychological, and social health; youth development and improved academic performance; positive alternatives for at risk youth; violence, gang, and crime prevention; economic vitality for all; climate justice and conservation values of clean air, water, land, and habitat protection; art, culture and historic preservation; spiritual and indigenous values in protecting the earth and its people; and equitable infrastructure investments. Fundamental principles of equal justice and just democracy cut across these other values.

Physical activity can help stop and reverse childhood obesity. Throughout much
of the San Gabriel Valley, more than 30% of all children are overweight or obese! The numbers are even worse for adults. Obesity can lead to a range of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancers.

The City Project with other social justice and environmental leaders is diversifying access to and support for the San Gabriel Mountains and the National Parks and Forests. Our goals include places and policies for physical activity and healthy eating, Transit to Trails, green local jobs including diversifying ranger staff, and other funding and resources to build connections from the community to parks, forests, and recreation areas.

Learn more about National Parks and the San Gabriels; the demographics of the San Gabriels; and Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice.

What Can You Do?

A San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area and equal access to green space is possible -- but we need your help! You can become a part of our campaign: follow The City Project blog, sign up for our mailing list by Emailing hello@cityprojectca.org, or call us at 213-977-1035.

Diverse allies united through the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign hosted cabinet level federal officials at a Listening Session for America’s Great Outdoors at Whittier Narrows Regional Park on July 7, 2010. Speakers included the community panelists whose presentations are available on YouTube below.

Thumbnail of Robert Bracamontes Speech

Robert Bracamontes America’s Great Outdoors and Equal Justice: Save Our Land, Parks and Sacred Sites

Robert Bracamontes of the Acjachemen Nation, Juaneno Tribe, urged cabinet level federal officials: "The bankers and financial corporations have been saved. Now it is time to save the people and their land." MIT Professor Noam Chomsky writes: "Very eloquent piece.  Packs a lot in to a few minutes.  Hope some of it penetrated." 

Click here to see each of the YouTube presentations . . .

 














Toyporina, a Tongva/Gabrieleña woman who led a revolt against the San Gabriel Mission. © Judy Baca and SPARC.

Tribal Circle © Ricardo Duffy