By Isiah REYES
The National Park Service hosted a public town hall meeting at Descanso Gardens on April 27 to gather community input on the possibility of expanding the boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include the Rim of the Valley Corridor, which generally includes the mountains encircling the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo Valleys in California.
The panel discussion included Congressman Adam Schiff, project manager of the National Park Service Anne Dove, chief deputy director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Rorie Skei and regional associate, wilderness society chair of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Daniel Rossman. They gathered input and concerns from the community about the draft report released by the National Park Service on the Rim of the Valley Study, which evaluated four main options to cooperatively manage the significant resources of the study area. As a whole, the study area is approximately 50% privately owned lands and 50% public lands.
The first of the four alternatives was to continue the current management without any further action. This option serves as a baseline for evaluating the other alternatives. The second alternative would establish a cooperative development plan. The plan would identify shared goals and identify strategies for connecting open space and provide new recreational opportunities. No new areas would be added.
The third alternative is the preferred option of the National Park Service. It would provide more parks and protect habitat linkages by adding approximately 173,000 acres with an emphasis on creating more recreational opportunities near urban areas. Areas included in the boundary adjustment generally include the portions of the study area bordering the most populous areas of the Los Angeles region, including the mountains surrounding the San Fernando and Crescenta valleys, and the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco corridors. The boundary adjustment would not include any areas of the Angeles National Forest or San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The reason this option is preferred is because, although some of the natural and cultural resources in the study area met the criteria for new park areas, it was determined that the boundary expansion would be less costly and more efficient than establishing a new stand-alone park.
“Alternative C would yield the greatest return on park service investment,” said Dove.
The boundary adjustment in Alternative C would also be more feasible rather than establishing a new partnership unit that would have similar purposes to the existing park within close proximity to it. The duplication of management structures and the complexity of operating two similar but independent units was ultimately why Alternative C was favored, said Dove.
The fourth alternative option would also be a boundary adjustment, but this one would be much larger with an expansion of approximately 313,000 acres. This boundary adjustment would provide more recreational opportunities and would also emphasize the protection of regional wildlife corridors.
In all alternatives, there would be retention of local land use. The National Park Service only has authority to directly regulate lands under National Park Service ownership.
There are still several opportunities for the public to provide comments to the National Park Service study team. Another public meeting will be held in La Crescenta on Monday, May 4, at the La Crescenta Public Library community room, 2809 Foothill Blvd., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. To contact the National Park Service directly with questions, comments, or concerns about the draft report, email firstname.lastname@example.org.