VIEWPOINT: Hillsides Master Plan must include conservation
by Ann Croissant
Claremont has a serious watershed problem. Claremont has a serious conservation problem. In fact, the entire County of Los Angeles has serious watershed and conservation problems. That’s why cities in the San Gabriel Valley are looking to Claremont for leadership on these intertwined issues, made all the more important due to the current mega-drought.
And this is also why the Claremont Wilderness Park and its new master plan are so important. But the plan’s current iteration offers few of the much-needed protections the park desperately needs. It privileges recreation and does little to preserve the environment itself—its watershed and ecological functions that are so critical to sustaining the human and natural communities.
In recent discussions with members of different Claremont groups and agencies, I found that differences of opinion and boundary drawing are creating more confusion than purposeful solutions. Which is odd, given that two decades ago, the state and region were obsessed with finding “preventive solutions” to water resource crises. Where did we detour from watershed planning to prepare proactively for the overwhelming crises experienced today? Very little of the state bond money in the early 2000s, for example, was allocated for watershed protection, conservation health and habitat restoration. Instead, the vast majority of the funds were spent on recreational purposes without essential securing, restoring and planning for watershed and conservation futures in the looming shadow of water shortages.
One exception to this tale of woe is the important study that the San Gabriel Mountains Conservancy produced in 2000, “Reconnecting the San Gabriel Valley: A Planning Approach for the Creation of Interconnected Urban Wildlife Corridor Networks.” It laid out a step-by-step process for safeguarding watersheds through conservation measures and habitat restoration. Its innovative and integrated approach has received county, state and national recognition, and is a model for how Claremont should proceed with its Wilderness Park master plan.
To promote active watershed management and habitat restoration in its foothills, the city of Claremont should delay implementation of the Master Plan for the Claremont Hillsides Wilderness Park until the following steps are completed:
1. Prepare a local to regional “macro-connected” scale and plan for watershed health, quality and sustainability, focusing on native waters first, restorative waters second and the creation of a “water-trust” third. We must not lose our local lands and the waters that they provide
2. Educate the public to analyze and steward their properties on a “micro-connected” scale and through a neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan
3. Because all watershed connections are (or should be) systemic, other cities in the region must be invited to participate in developing reciprocal solutions for a regional watershed and conservation plan. What happens in Claremont should not stay there.
What Claremont set aside in its foothills is now in peril because current planning does not adequately address these landscapes’ conservation and watershed essentials. Sound studies with scientific reasoning and systems thinking are essential to secure these wonderful, natural treasures well into the future.
The San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy stands ready to help Claremont bring this jewel of a Wilderness Park back to health and dynamic equilibrium. The first step requires the delay of the master plan for the Claremont Hillsides Wilderness Park until it fully incorporates a watershed and conservation plan.
Ann Croissant, PhD, is professor emerita at CSU Cal Poly Pomona, president of the Glendora Community Conservancy and the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy and also serves on CSU Pomona’s Masters in Public Administration Advisory Council.