White House comes to LA's San Gabriel Mountains for America's Great Outdoors

America's Great Outdoors San Gabriel Mountains Listening Session. Photo by Sam Goldman.

On July 7, under a big white tent overlooking a lake, east of downtown Los Angeles, a standing room crowd of nearly 400 people turned out to help protect and preserve the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors conservation initiative. The Wilderness Society, a key partner in San Gabriel Mountains Forever, urged the Obama administration to hear local Californians’ plea for preserving and protecting “the mountains to the sea.”

The administration is organizing a series of “listening sessions” on America’s Great Outdoors this summer to hear our best ideas for developing a new conservation strategy for protecting and connecting us to nature. After hearing stories across the country, the administration will compile those ideas into a November report about a revitalized national outdoors initiative that benefits all Americans.

Many of the guests at the lakeside listening session held at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area called for the lower San Gabriel River to be part of a broader federal National Recreation Area. This recreation area would help many cities that have few bikeways and parks, and lack connections to the Angeles National Forest further north.

Less than an hour from downtown L.A., the San Gabriel Mountains and River are part of the Angeles National Forest which provides L.A. County with more than one-third of its clean drinking water and more than 70 percent of its open space. The Angeles National Forest is one of the most heavily used public forests in the country and its proximity to the nation’s largest county truly qualifies it as its “recreational backyard,” providing one of the closest destinations for city residents to access the outdoors.

For example, California Representative Judy Chu urged residents to celebrate the San Gabriel Mountains in an op-ed in her hometown paper. And the Pasadena Star News editorialized about the importance of preserving it as one of Southern California’s most well-used natural areas.

There was diverse representation at the Whittier Narrows listening session in South El Monte — residents spoke about adding more parks to combat high obesity and blood pressure rates, the need to preserve Native American and early California history, and better federal/local partnerships to create an “Emerald Necklace” of urban greenways and natural areas.

Many guests sent comments to President Obama urging him to protect and preserve San Gabriel Mountains as part of America’s Great Outdoors.