Hahamongna: Something Precious That Needs Saving

The canyon on which I live is divided in three parts. In the bottom is the Lower Arroyo Seco, an area hosting the Rose Bowl, huge parking lots, a golf course, an aquatic center, and many, many playing fields. In the top is the Upper Arroyo Seco, a canyon that becomes increasingly narrow the farther in one wanders, and is mostly protected by Angeles National Forest. And in the middle, of course, is the Central Arroyo Seco, also called Hahamongna Park, named after the people that once lived along the canyon, who once lived right where I live now.

I've talked about this canyon a couple times before. In the time that I've lived here—two years in September—I've grown more and more attached to the place. It's hard not to. Here is what a year looks like in the Central Arroyo Seco.

But, the City of Pasadena wants to change this look, at least for a big swath in the southwest corner of the Central Arroyo Seco. Instead of what you see above, if the city's plan goes through, it will be a solid, flat, perpetually green field of turfgrass.  On July 12th, Pasadena will decide whether or not it will install soccer fields where herons hunt.

Soccer fields need to be watered, mowed, maintained, fertilized, lit, monitored, pampered. In its current state, the most maintenance Hahamongna needs is occasional dredging after storms. Pasadena Unified laid off 164 school personnel—teachers, nurses, librarians—and the city wants to pay for soccer fields in a place that needs nearly nothing to maintain itself. The City of Pasadena is facing severe budget cuts that eliminated 14 police positions, limited library hours, removed all security presence at Robinson Park, and led to other painful wounds. Financially, does this seem ridiculous to anyone else? And if the funds for Hahamongna are already allotted and unable to be moved to other needs, can't we hang on to the money and parse it out through the years for dredging after storms instead of building the fields? Can't we save money?

And, while we save money, can't we save Hahamongna? The City of Pasadena, in its Green City Action Plan sets out to "protect critical habitat corriders and other key habitat characteristics from unsustainable development." The Central Arroyo Seco is clearly a critical habitat corrider; just ask the hawks and coyotes and herons that live there. And maybe (let's hope), there are a few of the Arroyo toads left down in there worrying about their futures too. I know, I know, that is getting emotional and anthropomorphizing, but I think we can all agree that a giant swath of lawn is unsustainable, no matter how "green" one tries to go about keeping it.

There aren't many places left like this in LA County. In this one little wedge of the world, tucked between Pasadena and Altadena on one side and La Canada on the other, we've been able to keep something relatively car and asphalt free, something that welcomes both nature and the wanderer, something ancient and connected to the people who once lived here but still flexible with us and our encroachments. That's pretty miraculous. Pasadena, please don't kill the miracle.

There are many locals who have something to say about this.  Please take the time to read more:
Altadena Above It All
Altadena Hiker
East of Allen
Finnegan Begin Again
LA Creek Freak
Mister Earl's Musings
My Life With Tommy
Pasadena Adjacent
Pasadena Daily Photo
Pasadena Latina
The Sky Is Big In Pasadena
Webster's Fine Stationers Web Log
West Coast Grrlie Blather


Anonymous said…
Glorious photos. Living on "the edge" as you do, you'd be forced to confront the destruction of Hahamongna on a daily basis.

Here's hoping cooler heads prevail.
Petrea Burchard said…
Your photos say it well, as does your prose. How can we fire police officers and teachers and justify this destructive expenditure?

If I lived above that part of the Arroyo, I'd be pretty worried right about now about noise. And floodlights.
Linda Dove said…
In the middle of the night last night, the whole floodlights thing hit me. How invasive just that one aspect (aside and apart from the fields themselves and any chemicals used to maintain them) will be to wildlife.

Love that toad photo.
abigail said…
beautiful photos, terrible news. It's just crazy to me that in a time when the city is struggling they would choose to spend money on something so destructive. tragic.
Wendy said…
I'd say I can't believe it but I can. Insanity. Really do hope this doesn't go ahead.
The last two photos together make a beautiful diptych.

You bring up an interesting point as to funding. Was a bond voted through at some point? These kind of issues (library funding, Fire departments etc) are usually subjects that are passed through bonds. Other times, through elections when quick capitol is needed. Case in point, recent budget cuts over education funding.

Linda's right about the lighting. God forbid, I can see the field lights in South Pasadena from what I refer to as the lower arroyo (south of Suicide bridge) atop my hill in Highland Park
Petrea Burchard said…
It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, and I've been putting on weight. Honestly, I'm a lousy singer, but did anyone say "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings well"?
Latino Heritage said…
Love that your bring the forward the idea of the cost involved and concern for financial sustainability.
ann said…
That happy dog wouldn't be so happy if he had nowhere to run. I hope you guys can stop this. It sound horrid. Sometimes (uh, maybe a little more than that, actually) I really hate politicians.
Christina said…
AH: Yuppers. Cooler heads must prevail.

Petrea: I don't live directly above where the soccer fields will be, but with all the noise we already get from LC High, I'm sure we'd get noise and light from the fields too. But it isn't just us I'm worried about.

Linda: Light is pollution. Yuck.

Abigail: But we haven't given up hope yet.

Wendy: Thanks. We're hoping the same thing.

PA: I've read through the entire city plan on the arroyo development. This process has been in the works for a long time, since before--I believe--I moved to the area. I don't believe, however, there was a voter approved bond passed. Other voices, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Havisham: According to your Facebook post, it sounds as if all ISN'T lost, thank goodness.

Petrea: You're funny.

LH: Thank you.

Ann: I was going to say, I think more than sometimes . . ..
Amanda said…
Good luck on fighting this. Looks like a beautiful place. It hurts me every time I see a place like this destroyed in the name of "progress".

It also hurts me when teachers, police officers, etc. are laid off in the name of saving money on taxes or something like that. Shows the government really doesn't have their priorities straight.
Gina said…
Fabulous pictures. There is just something magical about being able to go touch flowing water.
Susan Campisi said…
Great post. Beautiful photos. If the powers that be aren't wise enough to save Hahamongna because of its beauty, perhaps discussing the economics will have an impact. Thanks for this perspective.

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