The Meaning of Hahamongna

The original settlers of the region were sometimes called the Hahamongna Indians. The word means "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language.

Hahamongna News


Road To Nowhere





André Coleman


Pasadena Weekly


According to the mythology of the Native America Tongva people who lived in the Arroyo Seco hundreds of years ago, 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 today, at the falls above the former Devil’s Gate Dam, which today is called Hahamongna Watershed Park, you can supposedly hear the river laughing.

But on Monday night, any laughter to be heard took on an air of suspicion by critics of the controversial Hahamongna Watershed Park Master Plan — a proposal that’s been in the planning stages for years and would place a two-lane bike trail and nature center in the 1,300-acre parkland in the Upper Arroyo Seco while preserving most of the area as open space.

Speakers at Monday’s City Council meeting contended that the ultimate plan of city officials is to install a road on which to drive cars and other motor vehicles.

“The major concern is we have lost trust in the process. We keep hearing this road coming up,” said Pasadena resident Joan Hearst. “[City Manager Michael] Beck said in an email there is no intent by anybody to do that. Then why can’t we put a covenant on this property that says there will be no roads built through it?”

The city all but did that Monday with a unanimous 8-0 vote, which approved the park plans and placed 30 more acres purchased in 2005 — known as the Hahamongna Annex — under the Hahamongna Watershed Master Plan (HWMP).

The land can still be used by its existing tenants: the Los Angeles County Fire Camp; the Tom Sawyer Camp, a summer day camp for children; and the Rose Bowl Riders, a local equestrian group.

Some people, however, refused to believe there are no plans to put a road through Hahamongna, although that idea was refuted by some of those who voted on the proposal.

“The underlying land use that we approved did not include a road,” said Councilman Victor Gordo. “If someone came forward in the future and even attempted to include a road, the application for a road would be objected to, because that is not an approved land use. As a matter of fact, the existing plan calls for the removal of paving.”

That plan also calls for the removal of 70 non-native trees to make way for a two-lane bike trail.

“The current plan would remove the major impediment for a road in the future,” said Mary Barrie, a member of Friends of the Hahamongna. “That is 33 non-native trees. That’s about half of the 70 trees set to be removed. In the first draft of the plan, it clearly states the city’s plan was to remove as few trees as possible to complete the project. If the road comes up again, stopping it will be much more difficult because the major environmental obstacle has been removed already. The best thing would be that they go back to the original plan and remove as few trees as necessary, and that was five for the total bikeway. They should take that whole plan and remove it for now and study it again and get the community involved. This is a landscape area. Those trees were planted. They didn’t just grow up wild there. This is the equivalent of going down to the Rose Bowl and cutting down all of the California pepper trees.”

The 1,300-acre watershed park, lying between Altadena and Pasadena in the Upper Arroyo Seco, allows access to trails in La Cañada Flintridge and US forest land.

The annex 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 of parking lots and roads began surfacing. Rumors also circulated that the land was purchased in order to build a parking garage for employees of NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is located adjacent to the park property. Earlier Monday, the council voted to amend a lease with JPL that has allowed to the agency since 1984 to use 11.2 acres for employee parking.

“There has been some community concern that someone is thinking there should be a parking structure for JPL in the Hahamongna,” Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard told the Weekly. “City Hall has said many times that there is no interest or willingness to consider a parking structure, because this land is considered to be used as open space. There is a lease of ground-level space that JPL has been using for many years. JPL and NASA and Washington know our intention is to recapture that land in the next few years as soon as they can restructure their parking. There is some concern that the city won’t live up to that promise. During the NFL controversy five years ago, there was a rumor Pasadena would build a structure up there for games in the Rose Bowl with a tram service. There was never any basis for a concern that I am aware of. The vision of the master plan is to ensure that Hahamongna is largely maintained as natural territory and open space. The 30 acres will be included within the plan, and generations from now people will still be able to enjoy it.”

MWD Board member Tim Brick said he supported the removal of the trees because it would restore the area to its natural state.

“I basically support the city’s plan for the removal of the trees,” Brick told the Weekly. “The trees are non-native trees and it is a unique habitat area. Over time we need to do what we can to restore the habitat and restore the native trees. We have had other cases in which they have had to remove non-native trees, and I think the city has approached it the right way.” The park itself, Brick said, “has such tremendous potential for education.”

But the plan’s critics still weren’t satisfied. They contend that Hahamongna has become home to many animals displaced by the nearby Station Fire, and that cutting down 70 trees could do them further harm.

“I am always concerned how Hahamongna keeps migrating more towards a city park than the wild land and watershed that it is,” said Lori Paul of the Altadena Foothills Conservancy. “We do not need roads and bikes in Hahamongna Watershed Park. That is a problem and it is going to continue to be a problem. Having a paved, two-lane bikeway at the northern end of the annex that borders on the conservation area is a problem for the environment.”