Aiming for Answers

Aiming for Answers

Pasadena council examines compromise plan to keep historic archery range open

By André Coleman 09/11/2013

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After nearly two years of sometimes heated negotiations, an agreement may be at hand to allow a historic Pasadena archery range that’s come under fire from local residents for being dangerous to keep operating.

Located on the west side of the Los Angeles County flood control basin, between the La Loma Street and Colorado Street bridges, the Lower Arroyo Seco Archery Range is the oldest field archery range in the United States. Under the stewardship of the city and the nonprofit Pasadena Roving Archers (PRA) since 1935, the facility, one of the largest all-volunteer run public archery education programs in the country, has been home to world-record holding archers, former Olympic team members and 17-year-old Amanda Tamayo of Pasadena, a member of USA Archery’s Junior Dream Team.

On Monday, the Pasadena City Council will vote on a set of safety measures and other proposals developed by the Pasadena Recreation and Parks Commission that would allow the PRA to keep using the range.
As part of the deal, the PRA would be required to pay the city up to 40 percent of its quarterly revenue based on the residency of its members. The group would pay that amount only if local participation at the range falls below 66 percent. If more than 66 percent of the group live, work or go to school in Pasadena, the group would only pay the city 30 percent of its revenue every quarter.

The PRA would also be required to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy that lists the city as the insured party. In addition, participants would be required to sign waivers absolving the city of any liability, said PRA President Gary Spiers.

Other points for the council to consider Monday include having a monitor onsite during all PRA activities, forcing the PRA to provide financial reports to the city and removing the group’s storage facility, which could be a major problem, according to Spiers.

“If the storage bin is removed, we cannot conduct classes,” Spiers said. “There has to be a practical storage location on site. Ideally, it would be a rebuilt clubhouse, which is permitted within the Lower Arroyo Master Plan. The bin is ugly and we’d like to see it go, but practically, to have classes, we need equipment.”

The 28-target archery range has been used in a number of films. The 1938 movie “The Adventures Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn, was filmed, in part, in the wooded area. More recently, actors used the facility to practice for their roles in the 2009 megahit “Avatar.” The PRA currently has more than 400 members, many of whom live outside the city.

Despite the archery range’s rich history, some local residents say the facility takes up too much space and is a danger to families, hikers and animals in the area.

According to Spiers, there is no record of any accidents or injuries occurring at the range, although he does admit that one local resident claimed to have found two arrows in his yard.
“I have some reservations about the recommendations,” former District 5 City Councilman Bill Crowfoot told the Pasadena Weekly. Since leaving office in 2001, Crowfoot, an attorney, has moved from his former home in mid-Pasadena to West Pasadena, where the range is located.

“My overarching reservation is the 28 targets are located near an extremely attractive part of the Arroyo. The issue is how much of the west side of the park do we want to allocate for this purpose. The archers would like to use these targets whenever they want. Opponents say it is extremely attractive and should be able to walk their dogs and play with their children without worrying about people being killed by arrows.”

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson said the area should be accessible to everyone, not just residents of the area.
“The Arroyo is a public space and many different users have used it over the years with little to no city oversight,” Robinson said. “I have yet to see any reason why the city should be imposing excessive operating conditions on the archery club.”

According to Spiers, the issue of safety came up in 2011, when residents living in the Lower Arroyo began complaining about the range. That led to a city proposal in May to place a large fence around the range and remove several of its targets. PRA members rejected that idea and other proposed restrictions and conditions and showed up en masse at a Recreation and Parks Commission meeting in an effort to convince commissioners to side with them.
The commission did not take action at that time, but the issue didn’t go away. A Lower Arroyo Ad Hoc Subcommittee was formed, made up of three archers, three hikers and three members of the Recreation and Parks Commission. The subcommittee was chaired by preservationists Ann Scheid and activist Claire Bogaard, wife of Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.

The committee eventually disbanded without coming to any formal resolution on the controversy.
A short time later, Spiers said he was approached by a city staffer who advised him that the city was considering moving the archery range to a property in East Pasadena, which was formerly operated as a shooting range by the Police Department.

“I went and had a look, and from our perspective, it could be a very nice target range,” Spiers said. “It is not a replacement for a field archery range. It requires a tremendous amount of work. It would have to be torn down and rebuilt. It was an environmental disaster area … lead in the ground. The cleanup would be very expensive.”

The city submitted its plans to build a fence around the archery range to the Design Commission, but in the end, no one was happy with the proposal. Members of that commission tore into city staff members for not presenting them with complete plans, but the panel neither sided with the archers nor rejected the city’s idea.

Shortly after that, Spiers and archer James MacQuarrie met with the West Pasadena Resident’s Association (WPRA), a group of homeowners living in affluent neighborhoods surrounding the Lower Arroyo, near the archery range.
In July, the group sent a message to council members asking for a delay in their vote until after the WPRA — to which Crowfoot belongs — had met with city staff to discuss the issue.

“We are working on our positions,” said WPRA President Bill Urban. “We are having a difficulty coming to a consensus. We hope to have one before the meeting” on Monday.

When asked which way they were leaning, Urban told the Weekly that members of the group do not seem interested in opposing archery in the Lower Arroyo.

Although everything seems to be moving in the PRA’s favor, Spiers is still nervous about the meeting on Monday.
“At this time we have not seen a written copy of the proposed agreement,” Spiers said. “I have asked if we are going to see a copy and I got a summary with bullet points. I think the intent is we will see it at the same time the rest of the public does. Given what the city has told us, we would support the agreement. We are happy the city has recognized the historic nature of the range. It is something Pasadena should be proud of.” 


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There are a couple of minor errors in the article:

I did not meet with the WPRA; my wife Terri represented us at those meetings, as I needed to be elsewhere.

The plan presented to the Design Commission was a proposal to install locking cabinets around the targets in order to make the range a hiking trail for all but a few hours a week. The proposal to build a fence died at the first Rec & Parks Commission meeting.

The proposed fence would not have gone around the range, but through it. The plan was to split the range in half, with targets 1-14 being open for use during all park hours, and targets 15-28 being off-limits except for during weekend tournaments and classes. The neighbors were told that the PRA was demanding the fence, when in actuality it was the opposite.

What's not really stated here is that there is a perfectly safe and quite beautiful hiking trail along the outside edge of the range, which anyone can use at any time, whether archery is being practiced or not. The people demanding changes to the range insist that they absolutely must walk on a maintenance path through the range, a path that passes between the archers and their targets. They demand that they have the right to do so because "it's a public park" and refuse to use the marked trail 40 yards to the east. There are signs posted at each end of the range specifically forbidding this practice.

Pasadena Municipal Code 3.32 states categorically that all recreational activities must be contained within their designated activity areas. The archery range is one such area; if the city were willing to prosecute them, the hikers who foolishly insist on walking through the range could be cited and fined; under PMC 3.24.030, they could be barred from ever setting foot in the park again. Sadly, the city declines to prosecute the wealthy and well-connected.

posted by JimMacQ on 9/12/13 @ 09:31 a.m.

Another point I overlooked before:The comment that "one local resident claimed to have found two arrows in his yard" is inaccurate.

There are two local residents who have property overlooking the archery range whose property lines extend down the cliff face to the floor of the canyon. One of these residents reportedly claims to have found many arrows on his hillside and in his yard over the last 60 years, although there have never been calls to the Pasadena Police Department and he has never shown the arrows to any representative of the Pasadena Roving Archers.

If arrows have indeed landed at the top of the hill, it is completely unacceptable, and PRA would encourage any resident to call the police in such a case. We also strongly recommend that the city of Pasadena include in the rules of the range, that bows may not be pointed into the air, and must be drawn with the arrow pointed at the target.

posted by JimMacQ on 9/12/13 @ 01:33 p.m.

This is ridiculous. There are plenty of existing lightly used trails for dog walkers and joggers and equestrians in that area. There is no reason to shut down the archery range. Our family walks there all the time, we just walk around the range. My wife and I and our two dogs and our small child have no problem with it. In fact, as non-archers who don't even know any archers, we enjoy seeing the archers at play and would be sad to see the range moved somewhere else. I grew up in Pasadena and we live here currently. Leave the archers in peace.

posted by Ashby on 9/12/13 @ 04:56 p.m.

The Roving Archers are great, but there are other untrained and unsupervised members of the public who think they are archers who are not so great. Archery is a martial art and a bow and arrow is a deadly weapon. If the activity here can be policed and regulated and the liabilty on the club and not on the taxpayers, then great. If not, it should go away.

posted by Vivavilla on 9/13/13 @ 06:03 a.m.

The nanny-state sees and conquers all! To "prove their point," would anybody want to bet that some anti-archery dip-wad (or perhaps an insurance professional ...) wouldn't go out and shoot arrows into prohibited places in order to create a controversy where nobody has ever even heard of one before?

Another thing, how many relatives and extended family members of people serving behind the horseshoe will realize some kind of economic surplus from this newest target of over-regulation?

It's a paradigm of government, "NEVER leave any (legally) fun activity undertaxed!"


posted by DanD on 9/13/13 @ 08:35 p.m.

I am in the Lower Arroyo almost daily. My dog loves it almost as much as I do. This is what I don't understand. I keep hearing that the archers have exclusive use and I know this isn't true. I see joggers, people on horse back, hikers, dog walkers, and all sorts of users down there every day. My experience is that everyone is very friendly and gets along. What I hear just doesn't mesh with my experience.

The other thing that doesn't make sense is how much money has been spent on staff recommendations that the council ignores.

posted by HeartfulDodger on 9/21/13 @ 10:08 p.m.

The range is the only place in the lower arroyo for disabled people like me. I can't run, walk a dog, and getting on a horse is just not going to happen.

Thank God for the archers. I can get out and do something and it's not costing the city anything.

Maybe the city should hire the archers to tell them how to make our city a better place for those of us who have a tough time getting around.

Do you think that is why city council meets on the second foor?

posted by DisabledNotDead on 9/27/13 @ 11:50 p.m.
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