By Maddy PUMILIA
The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy on Sunday led members of the Sierra Club through the proposed Rosemont Preserve, which the Conservancy is hoping to buy to ensure it stays an open space.
“The Sierra Club, Crescenta Valley Group, is partnering with us to make certain that we are able to acquire this property and we are able to suffice the funds to acquire this property,” said John Howell, the executive director of the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy.
The hike through the 7.75-acre plot showed the Sierra Club members what the preserve has to offer including different breeds of hawk and deer. The property has natural drainage and a streambed, giving it a higher ecological value. There are different types of plants and trees including the oak tree, which survived the Station Fire in 2009. There are also sage scrub and California walnut trees along with different types of grasses.
“It’s important to save this open space from development and not only save it from development but to retain it as open space habitat for native species that exist here,” said Howell.
“La Crescenta has virtually no trail head access into the mountains for hiking and virtually no open space,” said Lawren Markle, vice president of the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy. “In this area, we only have Two Strike Park and that’s more of a public park as opposed to the open space we have here, which is a natural habitat for animals and birds and offers beautiful hiking opportunities and beautiful views.
“Our hope is, rather than seeing this land developed because there are people who want to develop this property, we’d like to see it remain natural open space, so that people can come and enjoy that.”
“I’d like to see the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy own the property,” said Mickey Long, a biologist who was one of the leaders for Sunday’s hike. He added that he would like to see trail improvements, but otherwise keep the land the way it is.
The cost of the project is $450,000 and the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy has gotten more than three-quarters of that from L.A. Supervisor Michael Antonovich and private donations, including the Sierra Club. Antonovich gave $350,000 and the community contributed $15,500. This included $3,000 donated by Sierra Club. Estimated costs include the price to acquire the property and management costs.
“What is required to improve the habitat,” Howell said, “is to restore the habitat. Remove invasive plants and perhaps reintroduce specimens, species that exited the stage for one reason or another.”
“Our club has taken a position that we would like to see this land preserved and acquired as open space,” said Fred Dong, chair of the Crescenta Valley Sierra Club and hike leader. “I think it’s a really beautiful area ….It would be kind of a tragedy if it were developed with what they were proposing, a school. It would just create a lot of problems.”
“We need something open like this that everybody can enjoy: families, people walking their dog, everything,” said Bob Thompson, a Sierra Club hike leader. “Each little parcel of land is very precious. There’s so few left.”
The current owner of the property is Terry Villanueva and her son, Justin Whalin, who also own the Learning Castle and La Cañada Preparatory. They are offering the property to Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy at a discount to do something for the community.
“Hopefully we can open [the property] up to public access,” Markle said. “We want to make sure we’re being good neighbors with other property owners in the neighborhood. There are people that own the property further up the canyon that don’t want hikers out there, so we just hope people that come on the property … respect the property rights of the people that own the canyons further up.”
The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is relying on the donations from the community to pay for some of the property. All donations are tax deductible.
To donate, visit the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy website, http://www.arroyosfoothills.org/. On the left hand column, there’s a tab that says, “Learn more” under Save Rosemont. The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is confident it can get the rest of the money from the community and reach the goal to secure the land, but if necessary it can approach donors outside of the community.
“We’re mindful of protecting the habitat for wildlife and giving the community an opportunity to help with projects,” said Howell. “[There are] learning experiences we might have on the property for students to help with, restoration and overall management of the property.”
The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is holding tours of the property, located at the mouth of Goss Canyon at the northern end of Rosemont Avenue, for the public March 11 at noon and 2 p.m. Reservations are not required, but requested. To reserve, email firstname.lastname@example.org.