Why Judy Chu wants to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
|October 23, 2015 - There are lots of good reason why Congresswoman Judy Chu's bill to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument make sense. -|
|Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune|
|Why Judy Chu wants to expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument|
Matthew Penalora, 8, of Pasadena, leads children across a pool at Sturtevant Falls along the Gabrielino Trail in Angeles National Forest Sunday, March 2, 2008. The Gabrielino Trail begins north of Chantry Flat and can be taken to Mt. WIlson and the Arroyo Seco. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/SVCITY)
When Rep. Judy Chu stumped for recognition of the San Gabriel Mountains, she would often cite dangerous conditions in popular, front-range hiking areas such as Chantry Flat and Eaton Canyon.
But when President Barack Obama proclaimed 346,177 acres — about half — the Angeles National Forest as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on Oct. 10, those destinations were cut out.
On Friday, Chu, D-Pasadena, introduced a bill in Congress that would add the lost piece — an additional 109,492 acres of federal land — into the Monument as a way of completing what she and President Obama started one year ago.
“We wanted to make sure that the western area was included,” Chu said during the one-year anniversary celebration last week.
The large bite removed from Monument consideration would be added under Chu’s San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. From west to east, the expansion area would include forest lands south of Placerita Canyon Road and southeast of Santa Clarita; all of Big Tujunga Canyon north of San Fernando, Lake View Terrace and Sunland-Tujunga and the historical front-range trails north of La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena, Pasadena, Arcadia, Sierra Madre and Monrovia.
The additional land would include much of the Arroyo Seco as well as Switzer’s Camp and Mallard Canyon, forest lands where pioneers from the early 20th Century such as Benjamin Wilson, Wilbur Sturtevant, Ben Overturff and Thaddeus Lowe established stores, camps, resorts and in the case of Lowe, a mountain railroad that hugged the rugged front range above Pasadena.
The forest lands north of Altadena and Pasadena was where Native Americans foraged for food and traded with other native peoples over the ridge and into the desert.
Tim Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, who lobbied for inclusion of the front range was pleased to see Chu’s efforts to rectify the exclusion being introduced in Congress.
“This is the area where the Great Hiking Era started,” Brick said. “It’s the area where the Angeles National Forest was started in 1851 by President Harrison as the San Gabriel Timberland Preserve.”
Chantry Flat, in particular Hermit Falls, has become a popular hiking spot for young people, who post views of themselves jumping off rocks on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It is also a place that needs more rangers, signs and better trails, said Chu, saying the monument designation could increase federal resources.
“Hermit Falls is out of control,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Harrington, station coordinator at the Temple Sheriff’s Station. He estimated authorities responded to between 45 and 50 rescues at Hermit Falls last year. In April, Long Beach Polytechnic High School student Jess Yuth, 18, died trying to save his friend after both jumped over Hermit Falls.
This year, the drought has lowered the water levels and may have caused some young hikers to think twice before launching their bodies over the falls, he said.
Sierra Madre Mayor John Capoccia wasn’t too thrilled with expanding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument into forest lands above his city. He’s worried the attention could attract more hikers up the historic Mount Wilson Trail, part of the expansion under Chu’s bill.
Besides adding to the monument, Chu’s bill would bring back the idea of a National Recreation Area originally proposed before Obama’s declaration. A San Gabriel Mountains NRA of about 50,000 acres would include private and public lands along the foothills, on both sides of the San Gabriel River from Azusa to Santa Fe Springs and westerly along a portion of the Puente-Chino Hills.