Thursday, August 27, 2009

A visit to Placerita Canyon

Yesterday, The chair of the Friends of the Whittier Narrows Natural Area, Jim Odling, and I visited the Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center in Newhall, Calif.

For me, the visit was a chance to see firsthand the results of a recently completed $2.1 million "eco-friendly" renovation of the nature center that I learned of through a story in The Signal.

My impression of the renovated nature center was that it was neat and clean. I also found it a bit sterile, but that's probably only due to the fact that the staff and volunteers have only been back in the buildings for a couple of months. Give them some time to grow into the place, and I have no doubt it'll soon reflect the character and dedication of everyone there.

The renovation at Placerita Canyon could provide the model for a similar renovation of the Whittier Narrows Nature Center.

Rather than waste tens of millions of tax dollars to give government bureaucrats and water agency officials a conference center--the San Gabriel River Discovery Center--on a wildlife sanctuary, the authority and its supporters could take a truly community-focused approach.

People such as Supervisor Gloria Molina could take the money they've already committed to the project and direct it instead to a renovation of Whittier Narrows facilities, thereby saving the taxpayer and rate payer millions.

An eco-friendly renovation would be the fiscally and environmentally responsible approach. It would also keep the focus at Whittier Narrows where it belongs: on the needs and desires of our diverse community.

The Discovery Center, on the other hand, is a massive gamble with our tax dollars and our parkland--a gamble that, even if it succeeds, would deliver the vast majority of benefits to government agencies and water districts.

Please note: More photos from Placerita Canyon are available on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thanks for comments on environmental assessment

I just want to say thank you to everyone who was able to submit comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its San Gabriel River Discovery Center environmental assessment.

It felt like a chore to me to find the energy to comment on the EA after we put so much energy into commenting on the draft environmental impact report. But it had to get done, and it got done.

So again thanks for taking the time to review the EA and submit comments.

It looks like some of the next important steps are to be taken by the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The authority, I believe, will review and address the comments and then decide whether it is ready to issue a final EIR, which would include the alternative the agency had decided to pursue.

Similarly, the corps will review and address the comments on its EA and then decide whether a full environmental impact statement is required.

Please don't treat the above as gospel. I'm new to this environmental review business, so please consider these comments as the work of a a novice.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tying it all together: the Narrows, the watershed and even Eaton Canyon in the news recently

There seems to be much activity these days regarding the Whittier Narrows, a possible national recreation area designation for the San Gabriel Mountains and River, and a possible trail linking Eaton Canyon to the Rio Hondo.

The Whittier Daily News reported on this month's Visioning Whittier Narrows event. The Friends were at the event, providing information on the campaign to save the Natural Area, meeting other people from the community, doing a little face painting. We and other members of the community were able to share their concerns about the proposed San Gabriel River Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center is only one part of the larger recreation area, but it's an expensive part. And controversial. So its understandable that it should get more attention.

I find the whole "Visioning" thing very confusing. If it really is about a revision to the Whittier Narrows Master Plan, then I'd expect something vastly more structured and formal that the sort of festival we participated in on Aug. 1. (That's not to say I didn't enjoy it.)

Also in the news this month is a story about a study being conducted by the National Park Service to see if the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Gabriel River might be good candidates for a new national recreation area. The NPS has scheduled five meetings for public input. More information can be found at the NPS study website.

And finally, the Pasadena Star-News is reporting that a local conservancy will be studying the possibility of building a trail along Eaton Wash that would link Eaton Canyon with the Rio Hondo. It's an interesting possibility--but I'd be glad never to see the phrase "Emerald Necklace" again.

Can't we just have the trails and do without the marketing gimmicks?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Deadline approaching for comments on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental assessment

Just when you thought it was safe to put down your red pen for marking up Discovery Center environmental documents, another deadline approaches.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' environmental assessment is out and its Aug. 20 comment deadline is less than two weeks away.

The document can be found online at the Discovery Center Authority website.

It looks as if comments will only be accepted if they are submitted in writing and postmarked by Aug. 20.

Comments should be sent to:

Carvel Bass
Operations Branch
US Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District
915 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 11063
Los Angeles, CA 90017

You can find a list of questions to ask when reviewing environmental documents in a June 9 blog post.

Any help members of the community could provide in critiquing this document would be much appreciated.