By Mary O’KEEFE
The first of five U.S. Forest Service public open house meetings was held on Monday at the Pacific Community Center in Glendale. The purpose of the meetings are to get public input on the development of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Management Plan.
On Oct. 14, 2014 President Barack Obama signed the National Monument proclamation. This created the San Gabriel National Monument, the eighth Forest Service national monument. It encompasses 346,177 acres primarily in the Angeles National Forest.
The Monument is located in the heaviest used area of ANF, an area that receives about 4 million visitors each year.
“We are looking for public input in what management direction and emphasis we should have,” said John Thorton, district ranger for the San Gabriel River Ranger Station.
Some of the trails, structures and campgrounds are not in the best condition, he said. These meetings will give the Forest Service personnel some guidance on what the public wants to improve with the limited resources the Forest Service has.
The Presidential Proclamation requires the Forest Service to create a new plan for the Monument area. The Forest plan that was in place must now be changed. The department will be receiving a short-term funding increase as it develops programs but after that funding is gone there will be nothing new for the budget.
“There is no new money from Congress,” Thorton said. “We are looking to develop partnerships to help with the prioritizing.”
Much like cities have reached out to corporations to help build stadiums, the Forest Service would like to reach out for the same type if support – i.e., a Disney Campground.
But any support from corporations or individuals would have to comply with the same environmental standards set by the Monument and Forest Service.
Thorton said the department is also looking into more educational and volunteer opportunities.
“We are trying to emphasize youth projects, especially the under-served youth,” he said.
Bill Thompson, La Crescenta/Glendale resident, was at the meeting and asked the Forest Service for information concerning the Arson Watch program. For years Thompson has been part of the Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association. During the Station Fire the structure that had been their lookout was destroyed. The Association members have not stopped going to the lookout, at times with just a lawn chair and tent. They are in the process of building a new lookout structure but are running into permitting issues. Thompson was on hand to see what could be done to move the process along.
There were also people at the meeting concerned about the High Speed Rail that is planned to travel and tunnel through portions of the ANF. The Forest Service though could not comment on the issue until they see a complete and approved plan.
“I am a fly fisherman,” said Carl Crawford, a member of the Pasadena Casting Club. “I just hope the [Monument] is managed properly.”
His concerns included any structure that would change the lakes and streams.
“These trout [in the ANF] are descendants of Steelhead [trout],” he said. “If the quality of the [water] would go, it would be a real tragedy.”
The Forest Service is looking for further public comment. The remaining public open houses are today [Thursday] from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Pico House, 424 N. Main St. in Los Angeles, and Friday, June 26 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Big Pines Lodge, 24537 Big Pines Highway at Highway 2 Junction in Wrightwood.