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

Title:

Clearly Connected

Subtitle:

Date:

2007-01-04

Author:

CARL KOZLOWSKI

Publication:

Arroyo Monthly

Content:

If there's one big lesson the world is learning while facing the global warming crisis, it's that every part of the planet is interconnected. A melting glacier in the Arctic Circle will raise the water levels of the oceans, eventually flooding the coastlines of every continent.

There are plenty of examples of environmental connections all around us in the San Gabriel Valley that offer valuable insights. The Arroyo Seco Foundation is working to raise awareness of them, and thereby helping preserve water quality for everyone in the region.

“When you have runoff from storms in the Valley, some goes directly into the ground and the rest goes into the ocean. So you have a semi-arid area that's becoming more arid. And some communities have more pesticides and chemicals in their gardening, and that creates a problem for the ocean,” says Paula Sirola, ASF's watershed coordinator. “There's a connection between the mountains and the ocean. We're all connected in this. Pasadena people know about it because of the Central Arroyo and the Rose Bowl area with all its hiking trails, but in parts of northeast Los Angeles the public doesn't recognize that they're part of this watershed and contribute to the problem.”

The centerpiece of the watershed Sirola is referring to is today's Arroyo Seco, reconstructed in the 1930s as a concrete channel to better handle flood management, sending water from rainstorms to the ocean.

However, this system also results in depletion of the aquifers, which supply water to the five major communities of the region: Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, northeast Los Angeles and La Cañada Flintridge. It's just one of the many challenges faced by Sirola, who came to ASF last November after a career spent working with sustained development issues in rural Latin America. She is also charged with providing environmental education to schools and community organizations.

“I work with organizations that have common interests in the Arroyo to preserve and enhance its environment and cultural legacy, and we have a specific focus on the watershed because we're trying to improve the water quality and conservation,” says Sirola. “The ultimate goal is to reduce the region's dependence on imported water and improve the natural habitat, restoring the ecosystems in the Arroyo.”

ASF's efforts to preserve the Arroyo stretch back more than a century, when its founder, Charles Lummis, sought to promote what he regarded as one of Southern California's most important natural treasures. There was a multidecade lapse in activity along the way, but the Arroyo Seco Foundation was revived in earnest beginning in 1989, actively seeking to protect the beautiful natural terrain stretching from the San Gabriel Mountains all the way to downtown Los Angeles.

“We do a wide variety of things, from a water-quality monitoring program, in which we test water samples to determine the level of various elements of concern, to cleanups in the Arroyo and a lot of special outdoor events,” explains Managing Director Tim Brick. “One of the biggest issues we're concerned with is water quality and how people influence it. People walking their dogs need to properly dispose of animal wastes because even that can get back into the water supply.”

Brick has been involved in nonprofit environmental groups for more than 30 years; in addition to his work with ASF, he currently serves as the chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The San Gabriel Valley native has also given back to the community through his work with the Business Technology Center of Los Angeles County and a wide variety of health education campaigns.

One of ASF's major goals in coming years is to figure out how to remove some of the concrete from the watercourse and restore a more natural bed to the Arroyo. Active tree planting and stream restoration programs, including some experimental efforts, are key to the group's efforts.

But its biggest project is creating the Arroyo Center for Art and the Environment. ASF is working with the California Art Club as well as Habitat for Humanity because Pasadena city officials want a “housing component” on the site. The aim is to take control of the property at the Desiderio Army Reserve Center, which the U.S. Army is giving up in 2011, and either renovate existing buildings — which Brick favors — or knock those down and start over, a move other organizations are espousing.

“We believe the environmentally responsible thing to do is renovate because the buildings are good for our educational purposes and it's a lot less expensive,” says Brick. “We want to be another gem of the Arroyo Seco, honor the way artists have portrayed the Arroyo Seco, teach new generations how to preserve it and teach them the value of the Arroyo. Being an area of such natural beauty located under a man-made beauty like the Colorado Street Bridge is a huge advantage.”

Saving the Arroyo Seco

The Arroyo Seco Foundation offers plenty of ways

to save the world locally.

Like any charitable organization, the Arroyo Seco Foundation has plenty of innovative ways for people to help as volunteers. One major way to keep abreast of the organization's news and activities is to receive and read the Arroyo Seco News Online's daily updates. The emails offer information on numerous subgroups, such as the Arroyo Seco Stream Team, which handles the organization's water-quality monitoring and cleanup programs. For more information, please visit www.arroyoseco.org/JoinASN.htm .

You can count on marking your calendar for the second Saturday of each month — this time, it's April 14 — for ASF's monthly cleanup day in the Arroyo's natural environs. ASF also tries to hook up interested outdoors buffs with the cleanup days and times of other community groups, with all such events easily found at www.arroyoseco.org .

Managing Director Tim Brick points out additional opportunities for “greening” parts of the Arroyo. For instance, on April 28, the group, along with the Audubon Nature Center, is launching a citizen survey program called Watershed Watchers, in which citizens are invited to take part in a search for four specific types of birds in the Arroyo to determine their numbers and see if there is a need for action to preserve or increase their populations.

ASF will also invite all the organizations that host walks in various parts of the watershed to its Annual Membership Meeting on April 15 to share ideas.

If you're concerned about the state of community health, then you can also speak to ASF about helping to monitor the water quality of 11 different sites along the watershed. And mark your calendars for May 19, when ASF hosts the Watershed Festival in Hahamongna Watershed Park.

For more information on these activities and all other information about the Arroyo Seco Foundation, visit www.arroyoseco.org .

CARL KOZLOWSKI writes regularly for Pasadena Weekly, the national business magazine Motto and the Web magazine www.arrivistepress.com . He also has had articles published in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Progressive.