On July 12 and 14, Pasadena city officials conducted meetings for the public to “scope out” projects planned for Hahamongna Watershed Park, formerly Oak Grove Park.
Specifically, the meetings were intended to share supplements to the Arroyo Seco Master Plan’s environmental impact report of 2003 that pertain to the park. (The initial EIR can be viewed at hahamongna.com/mbmu.)
John Bellas, deputy director of planning for Willdan Engineering, began one otherwise orderly meeting by sharing information about each phase of the proposed project using charts and a power PowerPoint presentation: Fix the Bershire Creek area, create a trail around the perimeter of the park, expand the existing soccer field eastward, remove non-native plants, rebuild a restroom, expand parking for 110 more spaces and resurface and repair the roads — those were tops among the plan.
The project would respect the Arroyo Seco “guiding principles,” and, stated Bellas, “The city has made commitments to various funding agencies and must respect those commitments.” The audience was told there would be respect for the fact that the basin is used for flood control, and that there “is a demand for athletic fields.” This meeting was described as just the beginning of a process, which would then be followed by a draft EIR and then a final version.
During the question and answer portion, numerous people asked questions, which seemed to generate more questions. Most of the commentary focused on the concern that the addition of a soccer field and additional parking would fundamentally transform the near-wilderness of Hahamongna into another urban park, one that would generate crowds and trash.
“Who is pushing for a soccer field in Hahamongna?” asked Marietta Kruells, a local equestrian. Her question was never answered. A speaker later indicated that a Pasadena City Council member was a fan of soccer, but no name was given.
Among the 20 or so people who commented were representatives of the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Mary Barrie (Friends of Hahamongna), local hikers and many Frisbee golf players. There were no soccer groups pushing to create a soccer field in Hahamongna.
Sean, a proponent of Frisbee golf, did an informal poll of the audience, finding not one person had raised their hand in favor of a soccer field. When he asked if there was anyone who played soccer, one hand went up, belonging to a woman who said that she played but was not in favor of a soccer field being built.
Don Bremner of the Sierra Club asked if there was an alternative for a soccer field to be built elsewhere. Many speakers offered alternate locations: Brookside Park, the northern half of the Brookside Golf Course, the top of Lake Avenue and Victory Park were among them.
Dick Williams, a Frisbee-golfer, suggested that if a soccer field was needed, it should be built in the east parking lot of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, next to the park.
Others pointed out that adding an entirely new field to Hahamongna, with the projected increase in traffic, would radically alter the environment of this last remaining piece of urban wilderness in Pasadena.
Tim Martinez suggested that all that was necessary was to just fix roads as needed and rebuild the outhouse if necessary, but that it wasn’t prudent or desirable to pave over more of Hahamongna. In fact, most of the speakers regarded this urban park as a sacred wilderness that the city should just leave alone and stop expanding.
In the end, citizens found many of their questions — like those about destroying nature in order to “restore” it, possible water contamination of the area by increased use of pesticides and the apparently unwanted soccer field — had gone unanswered.
The soccer field grant requires that the field be lit until 7 p.m. The Master Plan of 2003 says no lighting will be allowed in Hahamongna. One question about that fact is how will this requirement conflict be reconciled? Another is have the effects of adding lights on the wildlife, including bird migration, been studied?
William Fernandez stated that this land is “sacred land.”
“It’s not just non-performing real estate,” he said, asking Bellas and the assembled public “What would the Tongva do? After all, this was their land.”
Susan, of Altadena, commented on the plan’s suggestion to “restore” wildlife, saying that “restoration usually means that we’ll destroy it and then we’ll fix it. Why not just leave it alone? You don’t destroy a habitat in order to save it. Once Hahamongna is gone, it’s gone,” she said.
Christopher Nyerges is the author of books on the outdoors, including “How to Survive Anywhere.” He does a weekly podcast for Preparedness Radio Network, and he blogs at ChristopherNyerges.com. A schedule of his classes at the School of Self-Reliance is available by writing to PO Box 41834, Eagle Rock, Calif., 90041.