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Arroyo Seco Foundation

News of the Arroyo


Pasadena mayor walks, talks about possibly removing private equestrian clubs, camps from Arroyo Seco





<b>September 17</b> - Put on your hiking shoes and take a walk in Hahamongna with Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek as part of his "One Arroyo" initiative. The mayor discusses the character of the Hahamongna area and the many sometimes conflicting uses there.


Steve Scauzillo


Pasadena Star-News


Pasadena Mayor, Terry Tornek, led the \'One Arroyo\' walk through the Upper Arroyo Seco at Hahamongna Watershed Park in La Canada, Calif. on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. The walk gave community members a chance to meet the mayor and discuss opportunities to restore and enhance the Arroyo Seco. (Correspondent photo by Trevor Stamp)
PASADENA >> Mayor Terry Tornek spoke frankly on Saturday about the problems of making even the slightest changes involving entrenched uses in the Arroyo Seco.

He singled out three tenants doing business within the city’s Hahamongna Watershed Park in the upper Arroyo as examples: MACH 1, a group using horseback riding as therapy; Tom Sawyer Summer Camp, a day camp; and the Rose Bowl Riders (RBR), a private equestrian club on 7 acres.

With about 40 people listening, Tornek stopped his walk-and-talk tour, part of his “One Arroyo” initiative aimed at improving these 1,000 acres of parkland, to ask point blank: Should private entities exist in public parks? He said in the past, whenever city leaders or community members suggest a more equitable use of city park land, the tenants are the first to complain, often igniting “a firestorm.”

“These are three different tenants that have some contentious issues,” he told the group.“Managing this place is complicated.”

RBR does not allow public riders. Membership costs $80 per person and $110 per family, according to their website. Sending a child to Tom Sawyer for a six-week summer day camp costs $3,260 for 3-5 year olds; $3,890 for sixth- through ninth-graders and nine weeks runs $5,490, according to its website.

“There is some suggestion this is a lovely facility for a very limited number of people. If you want to take your kid on a horseback ride, this is not the place where that will happen. Maybe it should be a more publicly accessible facility,” Tornek said of RBR, saying the contract with the city should be examined.

Tornek was illustrating the arduous path the Arroyo Advisory Group must walk if the improvement initiative is going to bear fruit.

At a July meeting, members of the audience bristled at a vision from one member, Don Hahn, a Hollywood movie producer whose house overlooks the Arroyo. His ideas for the central Arroyo included: a white tablecloth restaurant, a museum, a coffee bar in the Rose Bowl loop, an amphitheater for plays and indoor soccer arenas.

On Saturday, as Tornek tacked the upper Arroyo, a mostly natural area of oak groves, sage scrub, wildlife and rare birds, Chairman Doug Kranwinkle said his first priority was to establish a connective trail from the northern reaches in the Angeles National Forest down to South Pasadena.

Still, his message was one of great caution. “Our group is working hard that we don’t make it worse, but we make it better,” he said.

Tornek stood on the Flint Wash Bridge overlooking the vast swatch of greenery stretching behind Devil’s Gate Dam that would be lost if the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and Flood Control District receive final approval from the Board of Supervisors to scoop out 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment. The county says the huge project is needed to prevent flooding during two consecutive 50-year storms. The project would take five years and 425 dump trucks a day to complete and cost more than $20 million.

“If there is a way to minimize that so it doesn’t become a huge 60-acre wasteland,” Tornek said, almost thinking out loud. He asked those on the walk to lobby the supervisors to come up with a more gentle plan that would take out half that amount of sediment.

Standing at the northeastern edge of Hahamongna, Tornek blasted JPL for building “a monstrous” parking garage that spoils the view of the mountains from the nearby trail. He said the entire NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory complex is an eyesore.

“It is jarring. When you look up here and you have an office park, it is a strange juxtaposition,” said the mayor.

Finally, Tornek and Kranwinkle called several boarded up, single-story buildings left vacant by the U.S. Forest Service adjacent to the legacy oak grove an opportunity for improvement.

Again, the choices are controversial, he said. One idea being considered is to bring in a developer to build a resort, using some of the existing buildings. Some suggest the buildings should be razed and the area restored to its natural state, he said.

“Some would say we have too many uses here already, that maybe we shouldn’t institutionalize chunks of the Arroyo,” Tornek said.

While conflicting ideas seemed the norm, one thing Tornek said all of Pasadena can agree on is that the Arroyo Seco is being neglected in some places, overrun by people and activities in others.

“It is a precious resource. We are loving it to death. It needs attention,” Tornek said.

The group will hold a “One Arroyo Day” on Nov. 18 to further publicize the effort. It hopes to release a report with recommendations to the Pasadena City Council in December. To learn more, go to




Arroyo Seco Foundation, PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326