With the Labor Day holiday weekend approaching, we know that many local residents will be looking to spend time outdoors (see here for information on how to recreate responsibly). Our local mountains have been a beloved destination, with many families visiting to cool off and relax in the hot summer months. In fact, the San Gabriel Mountains make up 70% of our county’s open space and millions of Angelenos depend on the region for access to nature and time spent with family and friends. Many of these Angelenos live in underserved neighborhoods with little access to the outdoors.
For over 20 years, Nature for All and coalition members have worked to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains, advocate for more resources for the area, connect Angelenos to this special place, and educate local residents about how to recreate responsibly. This work – done in partnership with many local organizations and residents – led to the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in 2014, and has brought new opportunities to the region.
Nature for All recently received funding from the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District to begin an inaugural workforce development program this coming year. We’re looking forward to working with the Angeles National Forest, long-term volunteer groups, and Outdoor Apprentices to support and plan stewardship projects throughout the San Gabriel Mountains and the county.
Since the designation of the monument, over a dozen local partner organizations have worked collaboratively on upgrades to trails, campsites and picnic areas, installation of new visitor information, and habitat restoration. Examples of these efforts include work to improve picnic areas along Big Tujunga Canyon, upgrades to the Vincent Gap Trailhead and the Messenger Flat Campground, native habitat restoration in Big Tujunga Canyon, and the addition of picnic tables and informational kiosks at Windy Gap and San Antonio Falls. Other projects are ongoing, including updates to Lightning Point Campground, upgrading and reopening Clear Creek Information Center, and addressing invasive species.
We are also eager to see partner agency construction start in 2024 on the East Fork Project, which will include constructing a safe and dedicated access trail to the river, amenities that respond to recreational needs including stairs, restrooms, a walking trail, trash bins, picnic tables, interpretive displays, a river overlook, crosswalk, and formalized parking. We know there is a need to discuss the management of these special places, and we look forward to working with our community and leaders to support these efforts. I am optimistic about what we can accomplish together for the San Gabriel Mountains and the millions of Angelenos who access these special places.
We must continue to advocate for increased protection of the San Gabriel Mountains. Right now, only a portion of this landscape is permanently protected as part of the National Monument. With the support of elected officials, community leaders, and many local residents, we’re advocating for the expansion of the monument to include an additional 109,000 acres in the western part of the forest. Conserving this area will help to permanently protect access to nature and key wildlife habitat, conserve a critical drinking water source, and honor the cultural and historical significance of these lands.
We must also continue to advocate for increased resources for the national monument and the National Forest. We all agree that the Angeles National Forest does not receive adequate funding given the high number of visitors that this area receives. In 2021, for example, the forest welcomed 4.6 million visitors – that’s more than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park! The impact of this is clear, with issues like litter, parking, and closed campsites being on the top of the list. Local residents are understandably frustrated to see piles of trash at beloved places like the East Fork.
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and our forest deserve the resources to care for and manage sustainable visitation. Our goal is to continue to work with the Angeles National Forest, coalition partners, active volunteer groups, and our local champions Congresswoman Chu and Senator Padilla to advocate for more resources, find solutions that can improve visitor and recreation experience, and support the health and resilience of the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. We look forward to working with everyone to make sure this special place is permanently protected, cared for, and respected long into the future.