Sunday, May 19, 2002

Arroyo Seco Plan: Boosting Nature and Amenities
* Land: For its 1,000 acres of the canyon, Pasadena seeks to add or upgrade parking, playing fields and a campground, plus preserve habitat.



Pasadena has a vision for the Arroyo Seco, one that combines modern amenities alongside rustic features in the sprawling river system that plunges out of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Among the highlights of that vision: new and upgraded playing fields, an overnight camping area, more parking and better access to certain parts of the arroyo and an increase in the number of events held each year at the Rose Bowl.

The goals for the 1,000 acres of the arroyo within city boundaries are contained in a development blueprint released last week. Almost two decades in the making, the Arroyo Seco Master Plan offers a glimpse into how Pasadena foresees the use and protection of the canyon, named for an intermittent river that runs from the base of the San Gabriels to the Los Angeles River.

"It's unleashing a very exciting process, by reaching into the past and extending into the future," said Tim Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, a nonprofit group created by author and preservationist Charles Lummis more than 100 years ago.

Although it's only one page in the five-volume document, the Rose Bowl Use Plan may have the most immediate impact for residents living near the arroyo. Currently, the Rose Bowl hosts about 14 events a year that, with at least 20,000 attendees each, are considered "major" by the city's definition. The plan would boost that number to 25.

How the Rose Bowl Operating Committee might reach that higher number is uncertain. The Los Angeles Galaxy, which plays at the Rose Bowl, is poised to move to a soccer-specific stadium in Carson next year, and plans are taking shape for a 64,000-seat football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

The Rose Bowl's contract with UCLA, which uses the stadium for its home games, expires after the upcoming season, and the team is said to have had preliminary talks with the group hoping to build the downtown stadium.

'The Genteel and the Wilderness'

The rest of the master plan seems to embody the description that State Librarian Kevin Starr has used for the Arroyo Seco itself: "a juxtaposition of the genteel and the wilderness."

In some areas, the natural habitat would be preserved, if not restored, under the plan; in other spots it would be replaced with a more managed, user-friendly version of itself.

About 40% of the work proposed in the plan would complete deferred maintenance; the rest would be new projects, many of which have already been presented to city residents, according to Pasadena officials.

"I don't think there's anything in here people haven't already seen. Nothing here should be new to anybody," said Kathy Woods, administrator of the Parks and Natural Resources Division of the city's Public Works and Transportation Department.

"I think the plan contains a lot of what the community wants," Brick said of the plan released Thursday. "I hope people get real involved in it and use the review period and the whole process as a real opportunity to better define what the community wants."

Still, he added, "I get a little worried we are getting a little too utilitarian about the arroyo."

The bulk of the plan concerns the 300-acre Hahamongna Watershed Park, to the south of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

More than 75 projects have been identified within the Hahamongna, including more parking lots, an amphitheater, a supervised overnight camping area and two new athletic fields, one of which would be fashioned from an unused overflow basin.

Half of 'Disc Golf' Course to Be Moved

To preserve natural habitat in the park, the city plans to relocate half of an 18-hole course for Frisbee golf--or "disc golf," as it is called in the plan--to another area.

South of the Hahamongna, in the central Arroyo Seco, the master plan focuses on preserving the status quo while upgrading some facilities.

That area, around the Rose Bowl, is a popular recreation spot for cyclists, walkers, runners and ball players, and city planners hope to repave parking lots, improve roads and trails, and post better signs. The master plan also includes the creation of a grand ceremonial entrance on the west side of the Rose Bowl.

In the lower arroyo, south of the Colorado Street bridge, "the concept is bringing the area back" to its natural state, Woods said. A bird sanctuary, improved trails and the expansion of a habitat restoration project already underway are included in the plan.

A Chance to Hear Residents' Comments

Residents will have 45 days to review and comment on the master plan and the environmental impact report that accompanied it before the City Council takes up the matter, expected as early as late summer.

City officials hope to raise the money for the projects through grants and available funds after the plan and environmental report have been approved. They do not have a price tag for the whole plan, but they estimate it would take $30 million to implement just the Hahamongna part. Only about $4 million of that has been raised, mostly from the 1996 Los Angeles County Park Bond Act.

Woods said she believes that the master plan tries to balance restoring some areas to their natural state with making others available for public use. "All my life, I've watched this area," she said. "I'm really excited about the things that are going on."

Copies of the master plan are available for viewing at all branches of the Pasadena Public Library and at the city's Planning Department.

Electronic copies will be available next month on the city's Web site,

Pasadena will hold a meeting to hear public comments at 6 p.m. June 25 at the Victory Park gym, 2575 Paloma St.

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