Patch Blog: Time Running Out for Rosemont Preserve

A final fundraising push to save La Crescenta’s hidden wilderness jewel.

By now hopefully most of you, being savvy Montrose Patch folks, have heard about the . I first learned about this back in the autumn, when Montrose Patch covered a , with the purpose of protecting it from future development. 

Having just moved into the adjacent neighborhood a few months earlier, I naively believed that the natural hillsides directly above us were already protected. I still remember the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach upon realizing that the land was privately owned, and could potentially be sold to a land developer.  Everything we cherished about the area--especially the proximity to nature, which is quickly becoming a rarity in the region--could be lost forever. I lay awake for hours that night, and firmly resolved to do whatever I could to help put this land into the protective custody that it deserves. Since the deadline to acquire the property wasn’t until springtime, it seemed like there was plenty of time.

Over the following months, the AFC introduced themselves to the community and gave us the chance to get to know them. They attended La Crescenta Town Council meetings where they expressed their strong desire to hear our voices and concerns, and they listened to us intently. Their concern has been echoed at more intimate neighborhood meetings, with in depth discussions of how the land, if acquired, would be managed. All along, the folks at AFC have stressed that they view this project as a partnership with the local community. They have welcomed input from those who reside close to the property, as well as residents of La Crescenta as a whole, who will benefit from the preservation of our natural resources. 

Everything seemed great - an established conservation entity who wanted to protect our hillside in perpetuity, the support of the Crescenta Valley Town Council, and even a pledge from L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich to contribute over three quarters of the funding needed to protect the land. But it wasn’t until recently, when I finally had the opportunity to venture past the locked gate and set foot on the site personally, that the magnitude of this endeavor truly hit me.

It’s one thing to look at a parcel of land on Google maps and say “yes, this is worth saving.” It’s a whole other experience to walk the ground, breathe in the sage scented air, hear the melody of the birds who call this hidden paradise home and watch the setting sun cast a glow over the canyon.  

Your brain reminds you that you are only one block away from civilization, but your heart can’t help but feel immersed, protected, lost in this secret canyon. I’ll never look at that padlocked chain link gate the same way again now that I know the paradise that lies just beyond. And if the AFC is able to complete the purchase, none of us will have to look at that gate much longer. A gorgeous design for a more fitting entrance to the property has been proposed, featuring river rock columns and craftsman styling. Even if you never walk through the gate, it will certainly make a huge improvement aesthetically to the area for nearby home owners and the community at large. 

My personal visits came during several docent-led hikes presented by the AFC for the public. These tours have provided a taste of how the land would likely be used, as the AFC is very interested in offering docent programs to students, organizations and the general public. The Rosemont Preserve would make for a valuable educational resource - a wilderness classroom right in our own backyard. 

We heard fascinating presentations from community members with backgrounds in biology, geology and botany, and each shared their personal stories of what makes this small slice of nature unique and worthy of protection. For example, while the property is only 7.75 acres large, it contains various ecosystems including an alluvial wash. This is an exceptionally precious habitat for the range of life it supports, and it is becoming increasingly rare in urban areas as natural flood channels and streams are paved over. 

One of the most powerful moments occurred during my last visit. As we learned about a magnificent oak, a survivor of the Station Fire now showing signs of rebirth, we were startled by the sharp cry of a hawk. Heads snapped skyward, and we were awestruck by the sight of not one, but six red tailed hawks, circling directly above. For those of us that seek signs from Mother Nature, this was one that could not be ignored. Someone dubbed this the Blessing of the Six Hawks, and noted that perhaps they knew we were there to help them, offering their gratitude and encouragement.

As exciting and promising as the Rosemont Preserve could be, it will not come to fruition if the funds are not raised. The deadline to purchase the land is suddenly upon us, and the owner has graciously agreed to give the AFC until the end of May to raise the remaining funds. Supervisor Antonovich’s generous pledge, along with community contributions, have brought the total amount raised up to $485,000 - $40,000 shy of the funds needed. The AFC once asked the community for input as to how the Preserve should be utilized, and now they're appealing to the public to help support this conservation financially.

Clearly if there was any time to help, that time is now, especially as the AFC has just announced a fundraising matching program.

Three supporters have agreed to donate $20,000 to the project, if the community matches it with another $20,000. Each dollar received will be matched by another dollar... But we only have until the end of May.

The current owners are definitely looking to sell, and the next interested buyer might well be a land developer who will turn these glorious hills into roads and houses, streetlights and noise. As someone wisely proposed during a recent discussion, let’s raise the funds now to help acquire this pristine land, so we don’t have to spend it later in the fight over potential development. 

Many of us support nature in distant ways, by supporting groups like the Sierra Club or Audubon Society. While those are worthy organizations, we now have the unique opportunity to support our own personal wilderness.

Skip your daily fancy coffee chain latte for a week, and put that money towards a good local cause.

Do it for the hawks. Do it for your children. Do it for La Crescenta.

To learn more about the Rosemont Preserve, or to make a donation, please visit www.arroyosfoothills.org/rosemont

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ROBERT E FISHBACK May 18, 2012 at 05:11 PM
chuck weiss May 18, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Thank you so much for that powerful calling out Bambi. I live close by the proposed preserve and I've given my donation last week to save these 7.75 acres from future development.
Bambi Leigh May 18, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Thank you both for your words of support, and thanks especially to Chuck for contributing. I'm glad and encouraged to hear that others agree this is an important cause! I'd love to see many posts here from others who have made donations -- let's share our enthusiasm for our Rosemont Preserve!
Paul Anthony Buehler May 19, 2012 at 02:05 PM
As a resident of the upper Briggs area for 50+ years, I have spent many years playing in Goss canyon and the surrounding hills. From the swings on the oaks, to trails to Mt Lukens, to exploring the two (now closed and sealed) mines. I have watched it grow and thrive, and I have seen it burn and wash away, all the while learning about the cycles of life in oak woodland and chaparral communities. And still, the private lands remain undeveloped. Why, because the land is far too difficult to build on, gain permits for, and to stabilize against erosion and EQ hazard. Further, with respect to any urgency in the matter, the area has seen very little development since the construction of Pine Crest in the 60’s, which, it is worth noting, would never pass todays environmental impact restrictions, which is why the “proposed” school never came to being. So while I would never say development in impossible, I do feel that the area surrounding Goss and Pickens canyons would not pass any EIR or public review needed for further residential/commercial development, especially after the fire/flood disasters seen in 1976-78 and 2009-2010 and the discovery of possible activity on the Pickens fault.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Add to this the high asking price for the undeveloped property, which is currently valued by the LACTA at close to $1.6m, and sees an annual property tax assessment over $17.5K. The drive to sell must be staggering for undeveloped land. Then we must add to this the questions around the eventual public access and parking, and I feel that the current state of affairs is unlikely to ever see the Rosmont Preserve serve the local needs for usable open-space. Both my wife and I have attended meetings and two of the review hikes, and it has been made abundantly clear, the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is NOT about allowing public access to the site/area. In fact, they claim the only way for locals to gain access will be through prearranged, docent lead hikes, that “may” occur one day a month if there is time or money for it. As an avid naturalist, I find this type of restricted or blocked public access to tax payer funded lands, ones labeled as “open space”, an oxy-moron, and that we clearly need to address these issues before the acquisitions are made, not after! It is after all, largely our tax dollars that fund these purchases, and so open public access should be one of the main tenants of any such land grab.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Given these important facts, currently, I stand against this acquisition by the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy! As a better solution, I would much rather see the Santa Monica Conservancy as the parent agency, and with their record on community access we only need to look a mile or two east, and see how well Earl Canyon in La Canada serves it residents.
Bambi Leigh May 19, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Paul, thank you for contributing, and sharing your memories of growing up in these gorgeous hills. Clearly we share the same love for our mountains, and it must have been wonderful to have full access to them as you did.... I'm jealous! To address the development issue, I worry that with future advances in architectural technology, someday these hills will be at risk. A setting with spectacular city views adjacent to Montrose might prove too tempting to developers, and where there's a buck to be made, I worry they will find a way. In a world where personal computers/telephones now fit in the palm of your hand, I refuse to take comfort in what wasn't possible yesterday. I hope to live here for the next 50 years, so I'm very concerned about what the future may hold. To me, the term "open space" doesn't mean free access to the public, but rather undeveloped land protected for flora and fauna. With that goal in mind, I feel the area should remain under restricted, docent-led use. Many of the immediatly adjacent neighbors have expressed concern about opening this area as a public park, as it would invite too much activity at all hours (and I would add to that, a higher fire risk), and possibly create parking issues on a regular basis. If you want full access to a wilderness park with trails, Deukmejian fits that bill rather well. Therefore, I'm personally all for limiting access, for parking, safety and conservation reasons.
Bambi Leigh May 19, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Finally, I can see the benefit in having a large organization acquire the land, but I personally don't mind one bit having a smaller, local group as our custodians. With team members who reside close to the Preserve, this project is dear to their hearts, and I believe that will keep it foremost in their minds. I also believe this proximity has helped to tie them to the community, and involve us in the project, as they are our neighbors.
ROBERT E. FISHBACK May 20, 2012 at 02:40 AM
chuck weiss May 20, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Unfortunately I had to miss both hosted discussions of the Rosemont Preserve area due to work conflicts, and I was unaware that the purchase land would be "off limits" to the public except for an occasional docent led hikes. Thank you for this bit of information Paul, this could be a deal breaker for me. I don't recall hearing of this from any of the literature I've read on the purchase, although for the benefit of the doubt I'll peruse it again today to see if it was mentioned in the initial purchase proposal and I might have missed it.
chuck weiss May 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I just read over the proposed Rosemont Preserve information provided by the Foothills and Arroyos Conservancy website and I see no mention that the open space would be closed but for a few days a month, in fact the wording was such to make me believe that it would be available for all to enjoy. If this is indeed the case, that the "open space" would only really be open at the whims and convenience of an available docent, then this is unfortunately a deal breaker for me. I did see this little mention on their site which hinted that "AFC also plans to provide access beyond the gate at the Rosemont Preserve, allowing visitors to enjoy the wilderness in a way that’s sensitive to wildlife and plant life, as well as adjacent landowners." If "sensitive to adjacent landowners" means that the gates will be locked for a majority of the time, then I'm sorry but I'm out. My donation to saving the open space has already been sent, but I'm beginning to feel I was misled by the Conservancy.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 20, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Morning Chuck. Sorry to say, I didn't see it voiced in the literature either, so I made sure to ask at the walk/hike they gave a couple months ago. And sure enough, they were emphatic that it was going to be dependent on funding, and that no matter, ALL access would be under the supervision of a Conservancy employee/docent. To which I asked how many access times they would expect per year? and I was told a few hours one day a month in the summer and maybe a "few" at other times of year. My wife was taken aback by this and has attended a town hall event and another pre-view hike and was repeatedly told the same thing. I had hoped, that after all the years of fences around the Pruitt property (since about 2000), we might once again be able to access the trails that have been here for over 100 years... But it appears that the "closed access" mentality will remain the norm.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 20, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Bambi, I respect and I guess I can understand your position, but IMO, Goss has been a far better example of the interface between an oak woodland/chaparral community than Dunsmore has been for my 50 years here. Even after the fire, the number of oak trees in the "Rosemont Preserve", the county flood control, and the Pruitt property must be at least 10-20x what we see in the DWP. Also, I do not live in Glendale, I live in the LA county portion of LC, and it was our property taxes and our Supervisor (Antonovich) that worked hard to get us the vast majority of the grant. So given that so little of the SG Mountains frontage has direct public access, I think anytime public money is given to these projects it should only be with an eye to fair use.
Nicole Charky (Editor) May 21, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Paul, let's see if anyone from the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy would be willing to address that on Patch. Thanks for letting us know about that.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Nicole. thanks so much. I think it would also be nice to have them post a clear mission statement about the property (something we can hold them to) and more published details on how money is raised, spent, and invested. In particular, when I see this organization being run by a real-estate attorney, I am concerned about there being a conservancy payroll... As I have heard there is already enough money to actually buy the property, but that they are now raising money for the Conservancy itself.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Oh, and Nicole, as I recall, the money from the county came from a voter approved initiative (I'd have to look to see which one) to improve parks in the county. So there again, I feel the original intent of fair public access was behind the public money...
chuck weiss May 21, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Paul, Nicole and Bambi, thank you all so much for keeping us informed on the details surrounding the Rosemont Preserve and its current status. I'm also taken aback at what Paul mentioned that the grounds may be open a "few hours one day a month in the summer and maybe a "few" at other times of year," as this was never made clear in the literature and websites I've read concerning the purchase.
Frank Colcord May 22, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Paul/Chuck, thanks for y'alls concern about the Rosemont Preserve property. As a local resident, I have participated in most of the Conservancy's public meetings, with the Town Council, etc., as well as several smaller street specific meetings and many hikes. From the very beginning, what I have heard the Conservancy say is that they will work with the community (which they have been doing a terrific job of so far) and base property access and program offering decisions on what the community as a whole wants. I personally would prefer completely open access to this beautiful piece of property, but there has also been a number of community members and adjacent property owners who have been very vocal about wanting the Conservancy to just lock the gates permanently, allowing for no access to the property at all. What I have seen the Conservancy try to do is find a balance between these two ends of the public access spectrum, finding a compromise that would hopefully best meet the whole community's wants and needs. If you all have any suggestions about how to find a better or different compromise between no access and unfettered access, other than what the Conservancy has proposed so far, I am sure they would love to hear them. Thanks!
Paul Anthony Buehler May 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Good morning Frank. As an owner of property directly in Pickens Canyon, I understand many of the locals concerns, and I have to deal with them regularly, but I also see the need for public tax dollars to serve the long-term needs of the community. IMO, there will always be a few highly vocal NIMBY's (Not In My Back Yard), and if we constantly followed or bowed to their demands, there would be no schools, no parks, no airports, no public roads or even National Parks or Forests (don't forget, for decades, Wyoming and Idaho vehemently opposed Yellowstone NP). So, to me, this is why we need to argue for as much access as we can prior to any sale/purchase, so that those vocal few don't take away what would better serve the entire upper Briggs and Rosemont community. And to this end, we need the conservancy to publish a clear and concise mission statement that defines how it intends this property to be used.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 22, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Further, if this was property being purchased entirely with private money, I really would not make much of a stink. But given that the majority of the money is coming from a voter approved county initiative, one whose main goal was to improve and maintain access in LA County parks, well, in my mind, that makes this a clear case of land “designed” for open public access. Then when you add that the site was last purchased to build a private school, who could complain that it isn't a better solution to have it kept as an open space? And to back that up, here we are, in a situation where you, Chuck, and I have all said we want open access! WE NEED OUR VOICE HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR! Keep Goss Canyon OPEN! ;-)
Bambi Leigh May 22, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Clearly there are a wide range of opinions as to the land use, and I’m not expecting nor seeking to change minds. I’ve heard both extremes voiced at the meetings, from keeping the land open for public recreation, to locking the gates and throwing away the key to conserve the natural state of the canyon. It is impossible to please everyone, and I feel the AFC has done the best they can do to listen to us and find the middle ground. The majority of voices have supported limited access. I imagine once the land is acquired there’s absolutely room for further discussion on this, but the urgency now is to get the land into protective hands. In a perfect world where everyone behaved responsibly and considerately -- tread softly on the land and minimized their impact -- it would be great to have open access. But unfortunately not everyone exercises good judgement. See my earlier blog for a frightening example of this: http://montrose.patch.com/blog_posts/patch-blog-what-you-shouldnt-do-on-saturday-night). As an adjacent property owner, and as someone who cares primarily about the land and the wildlife, I feel having a lot of people hanging around at all hours in a high fire risk zone would be a very bad move.
Paul Anthony Buehler May 23, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Good morning Bambi. Sorry but I do not agree with your constant use of fear as a driving force on this topic. Interjecting unfounded fears of future building technology, people hanging around at all hours, the presence of visitors causing fires, or even that time is running out are IMO, all unfounded and inappropriate to the discussion. While I could easily refute each of those in turn, I will only comment on the initial claim that “time is running out...” The Conservancy has already claimed (at their meetings at Rosemont JH and at the hikes) that they already have the money to purchase the land, and that what remains is essentially to garner enough money to cover their operational costs. So again, they have publically said they have the money for the land, and that the sale was assured months ago. I feel it is important to mention that we (the local community) need to be critical of such shoestring groups, and that we must demand the value of an established, well run organization, like the Santa Monica Conservancy. A group that has a well established track record in our area, and who is also well funded from the onset. Also, the SMC has close ties to the ANF, the FS, and the USNPS, and was a big player in creating the Santa Monica Mountains and the soon to be San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Areas.


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