Lashbrook Park

Some musings.  This one's actually a bit of a downer.  I get that way when ever I think of what Wal-Mart is doing to this city. . . .

Today, my wife and I made our way over to a place called "Lashbrook Park." It’s located just a bit north and east of the corner of Rosemead Blvd and Garvey Avenue, in El Monte, along the concrete banks of the Rio Hondo.

It’s a small "pocket park," part of the "Emerald Necklace" envisioned by Amigos de los Rios, an offshoot of the Sierra Club. Amigos wants to build a whole network of parks along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers, which run mostly through El Monte, South El Monte, and unincorporated Los Angeles County, with perhaps bits in Arcadia and Temple City. A person could spend a long day walking, or a short day riding a bike, in a circuit around the area. For an area [that, like Rosemead] is woefully lacking in open space, the Emerald Necklace sounds like a little slice of heaven.

At this event, we ran into Councilwoman Margaret Clark. Maggie has been active with a number of environmental initiatives around the region, and she was at the park ribbon cutting in her role as vice chair of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. The RMC was created by legislation that our current representative in Congress, Hilda Solis, authored when she was in the state legislature. It aims to bring additional open space and recreational opportunities to people in the watersheds of those two rivers.

We reminded Clark about how nice it would be if the Amigos plan for a wetlands park for the open space directly south of Eldridge Rice Elementary School could be realized (my wife addressed this issue at the city council meeting on January 24).

For those of you who do not already know, the Alhambra wash, which marks off the northeast boundary of the proposed Wal-Mart development, is a tributary of the Rio Hondo. The Amigos plan was to remove the ugly concrete wall, and replace it with a more naturalized river bed, and with an earthen, vegetation-covered barriers to contain the waters in times of flood.

Building a regional wetlands park here could really do wonders for the image of Rosemead. It also be great for our kids. When I was a kid, I spent countless hours walking or riding my bike through big open fields, where the weeds grew above my head, and where birds other than pigeons and animals other than cats and dogs could be seen. One of the fields I enjoyed was covered by the Amberwood condominiums (the epicenter for Save Our Community), in the mid-1970s. The other field [long-since scarred by herbicide spraying and mechanical weed removal by Southern California Edison] is now being bulldozed into oblivion by the world’s largest corporation.

Children grow up today in condominiums, houses, and apartments, none of which come with decent yards, anymore. They probably find it hard to believe that, not all that long ago, there were places where wild things still grew and roamed, and that these places were within sight of their school or home. For example, the children who attend Eldridge Rice Elementary School (I was once one of those kids) probably think that it was a century ago, rather than just two or three decades ago, that men and women on horseback rode down their streets to access the bridle path leading to the Rio Hondo. [The bridle path is still there, running east off of Walnut Grove, adjacent to that concrete wall that marks the right "bank" of the Alhambra Wash. But I think all the horse properties in the area are now gone]. They probably can not believe me when I recount the year, not so long ago, when the islands in the middle of Rush Street were still being built, that the islands formed incongruous ponds that were teeming with tadpoles. Because, at the time, toads and turtles regularly came hopping or crawling from the Rio Hondo and the Alhambra Wash to the last open spaces of southern Rosemead.

Mark Twain is credited with saying, "Buy land. They’re not making any more of it." I could not agree more.

We know that the odds are long. But, if our city council can come to its collective senses in time, it will realize that nothing but open space is an appropriate use for land that is directly underlain by an active earthquake fault. This fault was the epicenter for the 1987 Whittier quake, which caused millions of dollars of damage and shut down the Title Insurance building [now the Panda International building, directly south of the proposed Wal-Mart] for about ten years.

A bit further away from the fault, we can envision single family housing, similar to the land use pattern on the other side of Delta Avenue. If Rosemead residents also want to include a smaller retail development on the other side of the park, even that might be acceptable. But it is a horrible breech of faith to take an area that was designated in our city’s master plan as office space for some forty years, and switch it off for the largest single retail development in the city’s history.