Sunday, September 10, 2017

Walk The “Over-Loved” Arroyo with the Mayor

Pasadena's Arroyo Seco is rich with history and heritage.  From the original Hahamog'na inhabitants, to Spanish explorers, Mexican banditos, and Anglo American settlers and artists, many have traversed its banks and called it home.  As the river along which our city was built, the Arroyo may be considered the birthplace of Pasadena.

The Arroyo provided early Pasadena inhabitants with abundant natural resources.  Its waters irrigated our early agriculture and orange groves, while its banks provided timber and grazing land for livestock.  Its stream and woods yielded trout and plentiful game.  Even today, Pasadena’s Arroyo remains an invaluable resource for local water supplies, recreation, wildlife habitat, and natural respite.  

I am fortunate to have grown up in Pasadena along the Arroyo’s edge.  Among my fondest childhood memories are the times my mom took my brother and me to explore the Lower Arroyo.  The lush trees, flowing water, swimming ducks and tadpoles excited our young imaginations.  These childhood experiences in the Arroyo had a huge impact on me, and I can only describe them as magical.

In my early twenties, I began enjoying runs along our Arroyo trails.   As I spent more time exploring the Arroyo, however, I began noticing more trash, especially after large events.  The trash, particularly plastic pollution, troubled me greatly and spurred me into action.  I began volunteering with the Arroyo Seco Foundation, and led numerous trash cleanups and invasive plant removals over the years.

Pasadena’s Arroyo is still beset with issues of deferred maintenance and overuse.  Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek has recently stated that the Arroyo is being “over-loved.”  The Arroyo Seco has become a regional recreational destination point, yet has over $80 million of approved yet unfunded improvement projects.
'One Arroyo' Walk with the Mayor Flyer
‘One Arroyo’ Walk with the Mayor Flyer
The City of Pasadena has spent millions to ensure the Rose Bowl Stadium remains financially viable, and has now turned its attention to the natural surroundings which make that stadium unique.  The City has formed the Arroyo Advisory Group to address the long-term maintenance and stewardship of Pasadena’s Arroyo.

The City of Pasadena and its surrounding communities deserve a pristine Arroyo Seco, with its natural splendor restored and protected.  Public participation is crucial for this effort, and the AAG wants to hear your voice.  What do you love about the Arroyo?  What issues need to be addressed?  What would you like changed?

Please let us know at the first in a series of “One Arroyo” Walks with Mayor Tornek on Saturday, September 16th at 9:00 a.m. in Hahamonga Watershed Park.  This event will be an opportunity to stroll through Hahamongna and participate in a lively conversation with the Mayor regarding opportunities to restore and enhance the Arroyo Seco.

Now is our chance to chart the course for the future of the Arroyo. Working together, we can make that happen.  Please follow our efforts, and join us for upcoming opportunities to make your voice heard.  With community involvement, I am confident that this effort will lead to a truly great future for our Arroyo Seco.

This article was originally published in

A tree falls in Pasadena, and lessons are heard

Pasadena Fire Department officials look at a eucalyptus branch that fell, injuring three children, on Aug. 29. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Southern California News Group) 
I was saddened to learn of the injury of three small children, one of them critically, by a falling 20-foot eucalyptus branch at the Linda Vista Children’s Center, a daycare facility, in Pasadena late last month.
The good news is that the 2-year-old Altadena girl hurt most badly is now home from the hospital and recovering from a broken leg, broken vertebrae and a skull fracture.
People have long known how eucalyptus trees rot from the inside and then come crashing down. It happened several times while I was a student at the now-closed Linda Vista Elementary School, site of the current children’s center, in the 1990s. 
This incident mirrors other similar incidents in recent years. In April 2015, a heavy eucalyptus limb fell in Brookside Park and nearly blinded a 7-year-old boy. A few months later, an Italian stone pine fell and injured eight children near Kidspace Children’s Museum, also at Brookside in the Arroyo Seco just south of the Rose Bowl. 
Each of these incidents involved trees that were under stress because of drought and other environmental factors.
Eucalyptus, with their dozens of varieties, were once imported from their native Australia and planted to drain water from swamps and wetlands, as they consume large amounts of water. They also were used throughout California as wind breaks, and, with our climate so similar to Down Under’s, thrived here. They became such a familiar part of the California landscape, in paintings and photographs, that many people probably assume they are native.
But branches of eucalyptus and other trees are often made heavy when they consume extra water when temperatures rise, and then break off under the increased weight. In the case of the Italian stone pine in Brookside Park, an arborist determined that the tree’s limbs had become heavy with water following recent rainstorms, and its shallow root system simply could not hold up the weight of the 85-foot-tall tree.
Given the discussions and concerns about trees in our city, I couldn’t help but notice that in each of these cases it was non-native tree species that fell. Anecdotally, I cannot recall a single time when any similar damage or injury has occurred with the mature oak trees in my neighborhood. Having worked to restore native habitat in our region, I know that many native trees are resilient and adapted to the long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, wet winters of Southern California. 
Torrey pines, oaks, black walnut and other drought-tolerant native trees seem less likely to succumb to climate-related stress than non-natives, which have more shallow roots and more brittle branches. Native trees also seem less prone to damage sidewalks and property, even in their maturity. Oaks, for instance, send down deep roots to access groundwater, while ficus trees send roots sprawling outward in search of surface water. 
When an opportunity arises to plant new trees or to replace existing trees on city-owned property, wouldn’t it make sense for Southern California cities to consider planting native tree species? Choosing regionally appropriate native trees for our parks, playgrounds and parkways might improve public safety, and would certainly save water and reduce damage to sidewalks.
Pasadena is a city that loves its trees, and the quality of life they provide. I hope that city officials will consult with native plant experts, and consider the benefits of planting native trees. California’s wealth of native tree species offers many solutions to help us enhance life in our beautiful region.

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Star News.