Rim Around San Fernando Valley 'Suitable' for National Park System Inclusion

Towsley Canyon at the edge of the Santa Clarita Valley is included in the study area. | Photo: Jeff Turner/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A report released by the National Park Service indicates that the mountains that encase the San Fernando Valley meet requirements for including them in the national park system. But whether that happens or not is a decision to be made years away and by Congress. For the last few months, park service officials have been seeking the public's input on the findings from a preliminary study and are seeking the public's input through Monday.

The so-called Rim of the Valley study began in 2010, two years after legislation, which was lobbied for by Pasadena-area Congressman Adam Schiff, was signed by President George Bush. It seeks to identify if areas connected to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, already a National Park unit, have nationally significant resources that should be included within the system.

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It does, according to the study, stating that the National Park Service finds the Rim of the Valley "contains nationally significant resources suitable for inclusion in the national park system."

Four options are currently on the table, two which would expand the boundaries of the National Recreation Area, but in different ways.

The proposed Connecting Urban Communities option, known as Alternative C. View this larger on Page 16 of this document (.pdf) | Image: National Park Service

The first concentrates on connecting communities, adding Griffith Park, a large swath of the Los Angeles River from the San Fernando Valley to downtown L.A., up the Arroyo Seco into the Angeles National Forest and Verdugo Mountains, and portions of the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains to complete the rim. It intends "to provide more recreational opportunities for a broad range of urban audiences, including many who are under-represented in national parks and underserved by state and local parks."

The proposed Connecting Natural Habitat option, known as Alternative D. View this larger on Page 18 of this document (.pdf) | Image: National Park Service

The second emphasizes connecting natural habitats by including even larger areas of the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains, edging north toward Los Padres National Forest. One oft-cited example why ecosystem connectivity is important is the mountain lion population, which due to fragmentation by development and freeways are threatened locally. The area also includes "one of the most outstanding examples of native grasslands in southern California" and "a relict Pleistocene big-cone Douglas fir forest."

The other two options do not expand the boundary -- one says taking no action; the other allows for park staff to collaboratively work with partners in protecting and expanding open space in the Rim of the Valley study area. All plans, however, would continue to work toward completing -- at some level -- the long-distance Rim of the Valley trail.

The National Park Service has already hosted a number of public meetings, but still seeks more public comment. "We're not looking for either-or kind of feedback from the public," says Project Manager Anne Dove, "there are definitely opportunities to take pieces of these alternatives and combine them into new ideas."

The full document is available online (.pdf) and comments are being accepted via email at pwr_rimofthevalley@nps.gov.

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