Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bring Our River Back!

The Central Arroyo ca. 1913.

"In and out among the trees, a trail has been worn, often leading down to the bed of the brook; and here one can wander for hours… in this leafy retreat, with the birds singing all about, and trout darting from the horse’s feet.”

-Charles Holder, “All about Pasadena”

Such memories still exist within the minds of Arroyo old-timers. Memories of an Arroyo Seco as a living river; an Arroyo with dark forests, verdant trails and trout darting through the stream.

As it was before, so it can be again!

The Arroyo Seco has been named one of the best candidates for urban stream restoration in the United States, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently formulating various alternative plans that could turn that vision into a reality. The Corps’ Arroyo Seco Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Program provides an enormous opportunity for massive river restoration throughout the urban portion of the Arroyo watershed.

What does this mean?

The objective of the plan is to remove as much of the cement channel as possible, and to restore a natural soft-bottom stream. This change will enhance the quantity and quality of aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitat — meaning a natural stream environment that will support more fish, more plants, and more birds.
The Corps’ vision of a restored Arroyo at its confluence with the LA River.

In addition, along the restored stream, the Army Corps is considering the expansion of biking and hiking trails. The Corps may also add educational signage and other amenities to enhance the visitor’s appreciation of the newly restored stream.

The Arroyo Seco Foundation has developed a guiding vision for this restoration — theArroyo River Parks Program. This program would link existing parks and open spaces to each other and to the river, thereby connecting the surrounding Arroyo communities. Imagine being able to walk, hike, or ride from Altadena to Downtown L.A. through a series of beautiful, connected River Parks!

Public participation will play a critical role in determining which of the alternative plans the Army Corps of Engineers will recommend. The Corps is currently accepting comments on the Notice of Preparation for the plan until May 23.

Join the Arroyo Seco Foundation in advocating for the most expansive plan for restoring the Arroyo. Together, we can return the Arroyo Seco stream to its original splendor.

*Originally published in 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Faces of the Arroyo -- Danny Aldahl -- Crest Runs

There are some people who you just trust with your life.  People in whose abilities you feel completely confident.  When it comes to driving, my buddy Danny is one of those rare individuals.

A skilled mechanic, Danny is also a talented precision driver who can push it to the limit on the track, yet be completely cognizant of the physics and mechanics of his every move.  He has always been one to explore the limits, going back to our days as skating buddies when we first became friends.

With our skateboarding days mostly behind us, we’ve taken up new pursuits over the years.  Hiking and exploring the Angeles National Forest has become a big one, and we’ve gathered more than a few adventure stories and good times up in those mountains.

Fixing up and maintaining his own car -- a 1989 BMW E30 -- going on drives up “Crest” has become a regular part of what we do.  On a recent drive, Danny shared some thoughts:

“Well I mean, it’s like an unused resource.  Not everyone has the same outlook on driving as I do, but I come out here and it’s no cellphone service, no other cars, no traffic, no stop signs, no red lights, no green lights -- none of that stuff.  There’s wildlife and rocks, and that’s pretty much all you have to watch out for.”

“It’s so close!  We could get from 6000 feet to the bar at the Standard Hotel on the rooftop in an hour and a half, and that’s with traffic in Downtown.  We could be down there in 50 minutes if we do it at midnight.”

“It’s just different up here.  It’s quiet, it’s nice, I mean, if you have a fun car it makes it a little more exciting, but in any car it’s fun, it’s an adventure.”

“(Blue roads) are the older roads.  They’re the roads that are the scenic byways.  They’re not there to make you get anywhere quicker.  This road is purely recreation nowadays.  There’s no reason that people use this as a commute.  

It’s like driving up to San Francisco.  You can get there faster if you take the 5, but if you take the 101 or the 1, you’re going to have a way better time.  The road isn’t as direct, and it’s slower and it’s windy -- but the reward is far greater, I think.  If you’re going for time, then that’s one thing.  But if you’re going for the experience, then that’s another.”

“On a global scale, there aren’t many places in the world that exist like Los Angeles.  You go to Europe and there are great roads there, but they’re hours out of anywhere.  You have to sit on a freeway for two hours before you can even get to the mountain pass.  Not all of them, don’t get me wrong -- but here you can drive this twice, three times, four times a week.  I mean, I do!  It’s very accessible.  

And the caliber of road is unbelievable.  Every major motor journalist in the United States has tested a car up here, I’m willing to bet.  They film car commercials up here.  Part of it’s the industry in the area, and part of it is that it’s a very good road.  It’s exciting, and you can test a car without really breaking the law.  It’s absolutely world class.”

The scale at which we traverse the landscape has truly made the mountain range feel like our own.  We’ve made ourselves locals, and every peak, turnout, and trail we pass become familiar to us.  What a life-affirming experience it is to go high upon the mountain at night, to gaze out at the stars from a darkened turnout.  What a gift it is to so easily recharge in our local mountains -- a place which has melded to form our very identities.