Joggers run in Peck Road Water Conservation Park.
Visitors stand on the edge of the north end of the lake at Peck Road Park on Thursday.
Unlike regime change and tornadoes, environmental restoration happens very slowly.
Scientists estimate it took millions of years for glaciers to come and go, thousands for the biggest sequoias to reach heavenward and likewise for a fish or a crustacean to develop adaptations needed for survival. The opposite of that corollary is how rapidly humans can destroy nature (i.e. the bulldozers sent by the county last month to wipe out the Arcadia Woodlands only took a day).
Environmental groups straddle this time gap. Locally, they are working to restore the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers. Peeling back the footprint of the last 200 years of industrialization is no easy task. They are involved in a game of reverse inertia: Instead of progress, they want de-progress; instead of buildings and dams, grass and rivers. There’s little incentive in a society built on making money.
So I give them a hall pass when I look at the achingly slow progress they’ve made on several key projects, part of a string of green parks touching 10 cities in the San Gabriel Valley they envision as “The Emerald Necklace.”
When I wrote about deplorable conditions of Peck Road Park it was in the 1990s. Those words still reverberate in the offices of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, the state agency in charge. “I still remember those,” said Director Belinda Faustinos, who excitedly reported progress there.
In the last year, the Amigos de los Rios, along with the county, the RMC and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, have added picnic tables, planted trees, put in a path with decomposed granite and laid a rock-and-dirt bioswale that echoes the Rio Hondo River that feeds the one-mile-long lake.
I stopped on the way to work Thursday and saw a flock of ducks skim the waterway like a 747 on takeoff. I watched two joggers run the newly paved trails. I tested the water fountains and they all worked!
I envision this to be the West San Gabriel Valley’s Bonelli Park. A place where families can ride bikes, host barbecues, count birds and cross the lake on a paddleboat. Even a critic such as myself could smile at the improvements to the place.
Faustinos said the RMC and the county will soon re-do the entry off Peck Road, which today is hidden and shrouded by industrial buildings and scrap yards. The county will kick in $200,000 and the RMC $600,000 for this second phase. “The idea is to create a destination spot,” she said.
Peck Road Park is at the clasp of the necklace but in my opinion is an easier mark for adding green space. It has more potential than the jewel of the plan, the former “duck farm” purchased by the RMC in 2004 off the 605 Freeway in Bassett. (The RMC board will vote on March 28 to pump in another $4 million to begin transforming that land into a passive park with trails and a creek.)
But I’m still waiting for neighboring cities – aside from El Monte which tried but ran out of money – to invest in Peck Park. Temple City residents can ride their bicycles along Daines Avenue into the park’s Rio Hondo bike trail. For a city in need of park space, it could annex this park or at least form a joint powers agreement with the county. Arcadia, and Monrovia – which surround the northern edge – should participate in the restoration.
Residents of these cities and the county areas (south Arcadia) need to take this park and make it their own. It’s that simple. Start by going there to picnic, or for a 5K run. Just claim it.
I’m reminded of what the botanist and local environmentalist, Ann Croissant, said in my column contained in “The San Gabriel: A River on the edge” tab. She said the best way to start restoration is for ordinary people to physically go there, walk the site and see what they’re missing. “Look at what we’ve got here. It is worth saving, yet no one knows about it, (so) no one cares about it.”