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People asked questions and voiced their opinions on the Rim of the Valley open space proposal by the National Park Service (NPS) at a packed town hall meeting in La Cañada Flintridge on January 25, 2014.
Preliminary findings and alternative concepts for the Rim of the Valley were released by NPS in 2012. The study area stretches from the Santa Monica Mountains on the west side, through the Simi, Santa Susanna and Verdugo Hills, to the San Gabriel Mountains on the east side.
The audience applauded when some of the attendees (including City Project Staff Attorney Daphne Hsu) expressed the need for more recreation and open space for park poor communities. About a dozen audience members asked questions and expressed their concerns, on issues as varied as the loss of property rights, completion and maintenance of the Rim of the Valley Trail, hunting, bringing dogs to the area, and need for outdoor recreation for a growing urban population.
Thousands of individuals have written in support of Alternatives C and D, which focus on connecting urban residents to parks and providing key habitat protections. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) agreed that "both of those have to be priorities."
Alternative C recommends a boundary adjustment for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMM NRA) to provide more recreational opportunities for urban residents, including many who are underrepresented in national parks and underserved by state and local parks. The boundary adjustment includes Hansen Dam, Sepulveda Basin, Los Encinos State Park, Debs Park, and El Pueblo de Los Angeles City Monument.
Alternative D would also adjust the boundary of SMM NRA, to connect the large natural areas of SMM NRA, the Los Padres National Forest, the Angeles National Forest, and state and local habitat areas.
According to the California Council on Land Trusts, by 2050, more Californians will be urban, diverse, poor, obese, and less healthy. The National Park Service should serve the needs of growing urban and diverse populations and work to reverse the trends towards poverty and poor health.
Diverse allies* have submitted public comments, urging Congressman Schiff to support healthy green land use and equitable development through coordinated planning for several proposals that are underway. These allies support expanded park space through the Rim of the Valley study, an expanded Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the greening of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, and the proposed San Gabriels National Recreation Area.
Expanded park space in each of these areas will provide a boost to the economy, local green jobs, and contract opportunities for minority, women, veteran, and small enterprises. National parks support more than $30 billion in spending and more than a quarter million private-sector jobs each year in rural and urban communities that are gateways to the parks. Each dollar invested in park operations generates about $10 for local communities, and every two National Park Service jobs generate one job outside the park.
Parks can help reduce health disparities. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that the percentage of overweight and obese children tended to be higher in communities that provide fewer acres of parks, recreation areas, or wilderness areas. Green space, and resources for physical activity, are disproportionately limited in low-income communities and communities of color. A Transit to Trails program can take inner city youth and their families and friends on fun, healthy, and educational outings to rivers, mountains, and beaches. Such projects enrich their education about water, land, wildlife, and cultural history, and the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for lifelong health.
An updated study on the Rim of the Valley area is expected to be released in early summer. The new draft will address public comments and examine alternatives.
*Allies include Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, The City Project, Community Hiking Club, Latino Coalition for a Health California, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Pacific Leadership Institute, Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy, and SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center).