Arroyo Culture: Back to nature
|June 18, 2003 - The Pasadena Star News editorial salutes ArroyoFest and backs the naturalization of the Arroyo.|
|Pasadena Star News|
|PATT Morrison, subbing this week for KPCC's Larry Mantle on the morning show "Air Talk,' started off her Monday shift by noting that she'd enjoyed Sunday's hugely successful ArroyoFest, in which the Pasadena (110) Freeway was completely shut to motor vehicles and completely open to walkers, runners and bicyclists.|
"And now,' Morrison said, "if the CHP and Caltrans can just get their knickers out of a bunch, we should do it again next year!'
Morrison's comment perfectly caught the dichotomy facing government agencies charged with protecting public safety and environmental activists who want to change the way we think about getting around Southern California in a new kind of urbanism.
Highway Patrol officers and those who build and maintain our freeways and major traffic arteries see their jobs as keeping cars and trucks moving and folks without a shield of steel and rubber around them as far away as possible from the action.
No wonder it took ArroyoFest organizers and their predecessors almost 10 years to secure authorities' permission to close down or to open up, depending on your point of view the Pasadena Freeway for a mere four hours. After all, the first freeway in the West had been open to motorists essentially all day, every day for the past 63 years.
But the experiment worked, exhilaratingly and not just for those who participated. The ethereal smiles and waves from freeway neighbors who came out in their pajamas to see the first tranquil Sunday morning they've known in their neighborhood was proof of that.
So congratulations to bicycle advocate Dennis Crowley, who dreamed up the idea a decade ago, and to ArroyoFest organizers including Caltech's Bill Deverell and Oxy's Bob Gottlieb. May the now somewhat fanciful notion of turning the winding freeway back into a lower-speed parkway connecting communities come true.
Highland Parkers, South Pasadenans and Pasadenans all saw Sunday how the geographic fact of the Arroyo Seco, which nature has carved for hundreds of thousands of years, links them together in a common culture. The growing-region map in Sunset's Western Garden Garden Book even shows that the Arroyo is a microclimate unto itself, lower and cooler and foggier than the region it winds through.
Lots of ideas are percolating about the Arroyo now. Most are not entirely new, but we've seen that good ideas can be ahead of their time. One perennial we'd like to see explored is that of removing more of the concrete gulch that has run through the center of the Arroyo ever since devastating floods nearly wiped out the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course. The Works Project Administration "channelization' was completed at the same time as the freeway, in December 1940.
While it has protected against 100-year floods, it may also be a case of overkill. The open-river areas left under the Colorado Street Bridge and south of Devil's Gate Dam show that the natural Arroyo can handle tremendous volumes of water flow without damage and without concrete.
In the near term, some areas of the Arroyo aren't good candidates for dynamiting the channel. Housing was built on the Arroyo floor in the old Busch Gardens neighborhood, and the stadium and parts of the golf course may still need protection.
But where we can, we say back to nature with the stream as we work toward rebuilding a true Arroyo culture.