Field of Green
Environmentalist Hugh Bowles claims victory after city ends plans to build a soccer facility in Hahamongna Watershed Park
By André Coleman 04/17/2013
H ugh Bowles has been fighting to protect Hahamongna Watershed Park since the city first decided to hold a mountain bike racing event there in 1996.
Back then, Bowles and his contingent of fellow concerned citizens unsuccessfully sued the city to stop the event, but were successful in getting a stipulation that a similar event would never be held in the park. “We didn’t win, but we got that stipulation,” Bowles said.
Recently, Bowles won another battle, this time after the city backed away from controversial plans to use a $1-million state grant to build Sycamore Grove Field, a soccer field, in the park.
“What they are doing now is redirecting the $1-million grant to spend the money at John Muir High School. They could always find some other avenue to bring it back to Hahamongna, but it seems unlikely. We definitely won on the grant. That is a victory.”
Environmentalists like Bowles want the 1,300-acre park — located between Altadena and Pasadena in the Upper Arroyo Seco, providing access to mountain trails in La Cañada Flintridge and US Forest Service property — to remain in its natural state. They have been fighting against Sycamore Grove Field since it was approved by the City Council in 2003, along with the Hahamongna Watershed Park Master Plan.
“The city officials have exercised great wisdom in their decision to not further degrade the Hahamongna Watershed Park, which is one ofour great local treasures,” said author, naturalist and occasional Pasadena Weekly columnist Christopher Nyerges.
“May the park retain its natural state in perpetuity,” Nyerges said.
Meanwhile, city officials say they want the state to approve alternate plans for the grant funds, which could be in jeopardy since they were earmarked for a soccer field in Hahamongna.
“I am hopeful the state will honor the grant, even though we have requested to move the soccer field,” said Councilwoman Jacque Robinson.
California State Parks Director of Internal Affairs Cedric Mitchell told the Weekly last September that a number of considerations were involved in the decision to award the grant to the city of Pasadena.
“Several factors played into the grant,” said Mitchell. “Priority was given to low-income areas, but in the scoring process, we have to give priority and weight to project viability and proximity to the service area. In this case, the city made an argument that the targeted residents would be served.”
One proposal is to use the money to refurbish the softball field at John Muir High School and create a soccer field there, but those plans could produce another fight.
Some teachers at the school want to use the area where the soccer field would be built for the Muir Ranch — an agricultural program which would teach students about farming and nutrition.
“If we are looking at improving the lives of Muir students, what is the best use of the space?” said Muir Ranch Director Mud Baron.
The city was awarded the grant after claiming that a field in Hahamongna would best serve urban youth living in a densely populated area of the city, neighborhoods where there are high rates of crime and unemployment.
But as Bowles pointed out in his own 12-page report on the proposed soccer field, “Hahamongna Watch Report: Sycamore Grove Field Grant Analysis,” the field would be used more by residents living in affluent La Cañada Flintridge, which is less than half a mile away from Hahamongna.
As a matter of fact, the nearest Pasadena home or school is more than two miles away from that location, and the park at the Villa-Parke Community Center, where most of the youth soccer teams play, is seven miles away.
Had city officials moved forward with the plan to build the soccer field. Bowles said he was ready to file a lawsuit to stop it.
“If they had moved forward with that there would have been a massive amount of support for going to the wire on the issue,” Bowles said. “I think the city has acted wisely and they should be commended.”
Bowles said his next fight will be to get the city to discard the rest of the Hahamongna Watershed Park Master Plan, which included plans for the soccer field, a bridge and expansion of the parking area.
Hahamongna got its name from the Native American Tongva people who lived in the Arroyo Seco hundreds of years ago. According to a Tongva myth, a coyote challenged a river to a race. After running as fast as he could, the coyote managed to beat the rushing water, then collapsed from fatigue. The river then roared by with laughter, taking the name “Hahamongna,” a word which in Tongva means flowing water, fruitful valley. Even now, at the falls above what used to be called Devil’s Gate Dam, one can supposedly hear the river laughing.
The property was sold to the Metropolitan Water District in 1970 for $490,000 with a stipulation that its usage must support open space and recreation. Then, in 2005, MWD sold the land back to the city for $1.2 million after the agency admitted that it had no plans to use it.
Almost immediately after that, rumors started circulating that roads would be built to serve nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was also said that land was purchased in order to build a parking garage for employees of JPL, located adjacent to the park property. Neither claim proved to be true.
The Pasadena City Council recently voted to amend a lease with JPL, which since 1984 has been allowed to use 11.2 acres for employee parking.
“People are already making noise about the master plan,” Bowles said. “We have heard nothing back from the city, but that inevitably has to be the next step.”