Not too long ago, my partner and I took a 12 mile roundtrip bike ride to visit one of AHBE’s project sites, the El Dorado Nature Center. Found along the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, the 105 acres of natural habitat offers an urban sanctuary for plants and animals.
Along the way we pedaled past the LADWP Haynes Generating Station, a large gas steam power plant, hardly scenic if nature is on the agenda. But across this industrial site was a different landscape altogether, where the river has maintained some of the recognizable features of a natural waterway: a soft bottom river with birds occupying the surface, its banks stabilized with rocks and occasional plant material instead of concrete.
A few miles up the trail, Coyote Creek flows into the San Gabriel River. It is at this confluence where the concrete flood control channel starts and continues up until Downey, where the river returns to a soft bottom waterway, continuing up into the San Gabriel Mountains. The bike trail itself ends at the Santa Fe Dam, close to where the 605 freeway ends in Duarte.
The San Gabriel River is usually overshadowed by its neighboring Southland conduit, the Los Angeles River. But in fact, this other major river shares a similar history of manmade infrastructure forever changing the river’s flow (and in turn, the river helping change the city of Los Angeles as a major source of gravel, source, and rock to supply concrete manufacturing). And also like the Los Angeles River, I believe the San Gabriel River offers the potential to become so much more in the future than what we see today. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works teamed up with various stakeholders from cities, public agencies, and community groups to prepare a Master Plan to illustrate a vision for a river corridor designed with flood protection, native habitats, recreational opportunities, and economic value for the community.
The Master Plan includes trail enhancements, educational centers, bridges, gateways and connections, parks and open space, redevelopment and reclamation, habitat enhancement, and water quality and supply projects. Projects vary along the river, depending upon the various environmental, geographical, recreational, and social contexts surrounding the river.
AHBE Landscape Architects has already been involved in several Master Plan related projects, including the Rio Hondo Coastal Spreading Grounds and the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach (mentioned above). The Rio Hondo Coastal Spreading Grounds include enhancements to the bike trail, trail heads, and other landscape areas surrounded by recharging basins that re-supply the local aquifer.
The El Dorado Nature Center will start construction this year after the nesting season. I look forward to riding along these new San Gabriel River corridor features as they’re completed in the coming years.