I love the San Gabriel River, and Why endorsements matter

A lot of people think that endorsements don't really matter when it comes to deciding who to vote for.  I disagree.  But explaining why will take a while. . . .

A few years ago, our representative in Congress, Hilda Solis, managed to get a bill passed that authorized a National Park Service study of the recreational potential for lands in the upper watershed of the San Gabriel River.  The Park Service is currently undertaking that study:


The reason why I like this law so much is because, quite simply, the San Gabriel River and I have a lot of history.  My dad used to take us fishing up in the San Gabriel Canyon all the time.  Later, I spent a lot of time taking walks near the Whittier Narrows golf course, out where the Alhambra Wash exits its concrete straight jacket and flows like a river should flow, on into the Rio Hondo River.

Later still, I took long bike rides along the bikepath that runs from the Rio Hondo-San Gabriel River confluence all the way down to Seal Beach.  I've also ridden the San Gabriel river trail all the way up to the Santa Fe Dam, and the Rio Hondo trail up to Peck Road Reservoir.  I've also ridden from Rosemead on over to the Los Angeles River, then on down to Long Beach.

Those trips are not always particularly scenic.  Most of the rivers look like drainage ditches, what with the concrete walls.  (And, in fact, I'm not sure how safe it really was for me to take some of those rides).  But there are some jewels, a few of which (like Peck Road Reservoir) are being developed as part of the Emerald Necklace.

But the real point is, for much of southern California, the San Gabriel River watershed (of which the Rio Hondo is a part) is the last potential place for open space recreation.  This is particularly important because of the limited amount of open space our neighborhoods now have (in the case of Rosemead, less than one acre of open space per 1,000 population.  Ideally, we'd like to have at least five times that amount of open space).

The reasons why you would want more open space should go without saying.  There are both environmental benefits (improved water quality, improved flood control, increased and improved wetlands for migratory waterfowl, cleaner air) and health benefits (cleaner air, increased ground water recharge, and improved ourdoor recreational opportunities, which means people get more exercise, have lower blood pressure, and experience less obesity, etc).

In addition, however, open space is important just to remind us of where we live.

America now has about 60 National Parks, most of which are relatively large, and include places like Yellowstone and Yosemite (The NPS also manages another 400 or so sites, including national monuments, national historic parks, and the like).  Additionally, there are about 192 million acres of national forests (managed by the U.S. Forest Service), plus millions of additional acres, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or other federal land management agencies.

How do you get people to care about preserving those wonderful public lands?  How do you get people to even want to visit our national parks and forests?  And, once you get them there, how do you get them to treat those lands softly, with the respect they deserve?

That all starts at home.  Our children need to learn to value their own local parks before we can expect them to appreciate our national parks, wildernesses, and forests.  Conversely, for the family that can't afford the long road trip to our great national parks, recreating in our local parks may be their only opportunity for enjoying the great outdoors.

That's why I was so excited when Rep. Solis managed to pass her San Gabriel River legislation.  The National Park Service study will (it is hoped) identify areas, opportunities, and challenges to bringing outdoor recreation to the western San Gabriel Valley.  Just like Prop 84 at the state level, Solis' legislation may also open the door to federal dollars that can be bought in to improve our local parks situation.

Of course, that assumes that our own city council has the motivation and ability to build upon their relationships with their representatives in Sacramento and Washington DC to help bring those federal and state dollars to help our city.

[To a lesser extent, having a good relationship with city council members from neighboring cities can also help, as when development or preservation projects might require cooperation from neighboring cities, as noted in another of my posts elsewhere on this site]

Now, consider the numerous federal, state, and local elected officials who have lined up behind Victor Ruiz and/or Polly Low.  Conversely, consider the virtual dearth of endorsements for either Jay Imperial or Gary Taylor.  Then ask yourself, "Which of the candidates for Rosemead City Council are most likely to be able to work with federal, state, or local governments to help move Rosemead forward?"  And vote accordingly.