Environmentalists Oppose Regional Park

Environmentalists Oppose Regional Park

The County of Los Angeles is exploring building a regional park on the site of the Puente Hills landfill near the junction of the 605 and 60 freeways, at Crossroads Parkway South and Workman Mill Road. The discussion over funding this park will come before the County Board of Supervisors within the next few weeks. However, the plan for the park is being met with opposition from local environmentalists.

The Puente Hills landfill park master plan envisions “a park for all” that would serve as a “unique regional destination.” Amenities envisioned include a performance space, café, dog park, gondolas and zip lines. It would also add 13 miles of new hiking trails. Construction of the park, which would be done in several phases likely taking decades, would necessitate construction of multiple parking lots and four miles of asphalt roads. The master plan and Environmental Impact Report can be found at https://ceqanet.opr.ca.gov/Project/2015121051

The major revenue stream for funding construction of a park on the landfill site will come from a $1 fee levied on every ton of garbage dumped in the Puente Hills landfill. However, the $480 million price tag for the park far outstrip the $46 million in tipping fees set aside for a park.

This tipping fee, along with the preservation of nearly 4,000 acres of hillside habitat at the landfill’s southern edge, was negotiated due to the efforts of then-Councilman Bob Henderson and local community group Friends of the Whittier Hills. That same Friends of the Whittier Hills is currently opposing the park plan as so envisioned.

At their most recent board meeting, the Friends of the Hills passed a resolution recommending that the Board of Supervisors neither adopt nor fund the current park plan, and instead pursue a low-impact, environmentally-sound park, perhaps in partnership with the Puente Hills Habitat Authority.

“While our group is in favor of a new trailhead, we are concerned about the uncontrolled access to the Habitat Preserve by such a large number of people, mountain bicycles and even horses” noted Friends of the Whittier Hills president Jim Kelly. “This creates the possibility of habitat destruction on a scale much larger than what is currently occurring around Hellman Park”, a reference to a high volume of hikers disrupting ecosystems in portions of the Habitat Preserve.

In the six years since the closure, there has been a return of wildlife and birds to the landfill site, including the endangered California gnatcatcher. Certain park features will be built in the middle of sensitive habitats. A portion of the Environmental Impact Report mentions that areas within the park site contain “irreplaceable biologic resources”.

Additional concerns of the Friends of the Hills include a lack of consideration of hillside contours, and a flawed public input process that resulted in the park plan being virtually unchanged from the start of the process to the finish. The Friends of the Whittier Hills urge concerned citizens to write letters to the Supervisors sharing our local desire for a low-impact park.

An information officer from the County Parks department noted the environmental impact report “details the robust community engagement efforts over [an] 18-month planning process” and the park received “over 1,400 public supporters and multiple resolutions and letters of support from local municipalities and community organizations.”

To participate in public input, Friends of the Whittier Hills recommends that readers contact:

County Supervisor Janice Hahn :: Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration :: 500 West Temple Street, Rm 822 :: Los Angeles, CA 90012   

County Supervisor Hilda Solis :: Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration :: 500 West Temple Street, Rm 856 :: Los Angeles, CA 90012    

Image of the proposed regional park from project designer Hillworks.

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