At their meeting on Tuesday May 6th the Monrovia City Council will debate whether to endorse legislation to be proposed by Congresswoman Judy Chu to establish a National Recreation Area (NRA) overlay for the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Gabriel River. The NRA would encompass over 800,000 acres, from Sierra Madre to Rancho Cucamonga and from the Angeles National Forest to Puente Hills. It would include Monrovia Canyon Park and the Monrovia Wilderness Preserve, as well as some private land with-in and adjacent to them. Ownership and control of the lands with-in the NRA would not be affected.
I am in favor of this proposed NRA. The San Gabriel Mountains are visited by over 3 million people per year. Establishing this NRA will allow for the coordination of recreation opportunities in the area, and potentially provide more resources to ensure that people can continue to enjoy this open space.
From Congresswoman Chu’s website chu.house.gov/content/san-gabriel-national-recreation-area-proposal-faq: ”The NRA will allow the National Park Service to provide educational, interpretive, law enforcement, and other services. It will allow the National Park Service to contribute to community-based, community-driven projects. For example, it can help cities create more pocket parks and walking paths among their communities, as well as access points to existing trails and bike paths. It can help improve signage, and increase education about the environment, fire safety, the special history of the region, and more. In the mountains, where there are too few resources to handle the current volume of visitation, NPS could build bathroom facilities, picnic areas, and better parking grounds. Rangers could make sure trash does not end up in the rivers that supply our drinking water.”
Governance of the NRA will consist of a partnership of local, State and Federal representatives. While NRA management can propose various improvements to and uses of the land with-in the NRA, they will not be able to impose any decisions on local landowners, whether private individuals, groups, or local governments and agencies. They will not be able to override existing local regulations and control. Again from Congresswoman Chu’s website (reformatted):
- Water Rights
- RAs are subject to existing water rights so all existing water rights will remain intact and unaffected.
- Legislation will ensure the NRA designation does NOT impact infrastructure for flood control, protection, storage, and transportation of water, treatment of water and wastewater, management of solid waste or utilities.
- Management of water supply and treatment plants will continue under current authorities.
- The NRA will not include new or future beneficial uses or requirements for water supply, water quality, or air quality regulations
- Private Property Rights
- Eminent domain will not be used for land acquisition.
- Agencies and organizations (and all others) that own and manage land within a San Gabriel NRA will continue to manage their lands according to their own policies and regulations.
- Local governments, businesses, and private citizens will retain ownership over property and authority over land use whether they are in or near the NRA boundaries.
- NPS will not have the authority to regulate the way lands are used or impose its policies on lands it does not own, and NPS does not own any land in the proposed NRA boundaries.
- The NRA designation will not impact local land use authority over private lands or any lands the Nation Park Service does not own.
I see this proposal as one with a substantial potential long-term upside for the City of Monrovia and the entire local area, and very little potential downside. I urge the Monrovia City Council to endorse Congresswoman Chu’s legislative efforts to establish this NRA.
The issue of establishing an NRA overlay in the San Gabriel Mountains, including private and public land in Monrovia, deserves a thorough public debate. I encourage the citizens of Monrovia to research this issue, and to voice your opinion at Tuesday’s city council meeting as well as to Congresswoman Chu’s office. I also encourage the public and the City Council to keep the discussion of this issue on a substantive and civil level.