San Gabriel National Recreation Area Proposal Frequently Asked Questions

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San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study:

Where can I find a copy of the Study, background, and information about the study area and the study process?
How can I share my questions and comments with Rep. Chu?
Rep. Chu created an email address for public comments on the study and the proposed National Recreation Area (NRA). Please write to
Rep. Chu will work to incorporate your questions and comments as she considers the NRA proposal and works with stakeholders to draft legislation. You may not receive a response to your email, but your comments and questions are valuable.
What is a National Recreation Area?
A National Recreation Area (NRA) is a designation originally given to lands around reservoirs with water-based recreation. NRAs safeguard recreational opportunities, and help ensure sustainable management. 
The NRA designation has been broadened to include other outdoor areas, particularly those in or near urban centers. Each NRA designation is unique, and recreational activities like boating, fishing and hunting are often explicitly authorized in its authorizing legislation. 
What is a Special Resource Study?
A Special Resource Study (SRS) is a study requested by Congress and conducted by the National Park Service (NPS) to determine if an area is qualified to be a unit of the National Park System. Congress requested the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study. NPS completed the study after nearly ten years of research and public comment.
What was the final recommendation of the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study?
The San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study (SRS) recommends establishing an NRA that includes the San Gabriel Watershed and Puente Hills, but NOT the Angeles National Forest. It proposes making this unit a satellite of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA. It recommends a separate management partnership to make decisions for the San Gabriel/Puente Hills unit. It protects existing land use, water rights and activities, sanitation activities, private property, and all related facilities.
Was the public allowed to see the Study and provide comments while it was going on?
Yes. The study began by seeking local input and reviewing existing local plans for the area. An initial series of suggestions, called alternatives, were presented to the public and comments were taken over a period of several months. Over 5,000 people commented at that time. Based on those comments, the National Park Service (NPS) developed a revised set of alternatives and again submitted them for public review. Public town halls were held throughout the study area, and over the course of several months, NPS received an additional 12,000 comments. Ninety-five percent of the responses supported Alternative D, which recommended creating an NRA that includes the San Gabriel Mountains, river corridor, and Puente Hills. 
What happens next?
The Study is only a recommendation. It will take Congressional legislation to create a National Recreation Area. Though there is no official legislation currently written, Rep. Chu is working with many local stakeholders to draft a bill that reflects the priorities of the communities in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond. 
In June, Rep. Chu hosted a series of roundtable discussions with community advocates, city officials, local public works agencies, and business leaders to discuss the results of the NPS study, share her thoughts, answer questions, and take comments. These sessions provided vital feedback that Rep. Chu will work to incorporate as she considers drafting legislation.

National Recreational Area (NRA) Proposal:

What is allowed/prohibited in a NRA?
Recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, cycling, boating, fishing, and hunting are allowed in most NRAs. A wide range of recreational activities can be explicitly authorized in the legislation that establishes a particular NRA. The legislation creating each NRA is unique to the local needs and uses of the area. Many more activities are allowed in NRAs than are often allowed in National Parks, for example.
How will the NRA protect my rights?
The National Park Service (NPS) does not own any land in the area under consideration for the NRA, so NPS has no authority to impose or alter rights, jurisdictions, policies, regulations, ownership, access, or uses. Local landowners will not have to ask NPS for permission to sell, lease, or access their own lands, expand their own homes, businesses, or facilities, operate their facilities, etc.
How will Rep. Chu ensure the National Recreation Area protects my rights?
Here is a list of assurances that Rep. Chu will uphold in legislation:
  • Agencies and organizations (and all others) that own and manage land within a San Gabriel NRA will continue to manage their lands according to their own policies and regulations.
  • Local governments, businesses, and private citizens will retain ownership over property and authority over land use whether they are in or near the NRA boundaries.
  • NPS will not have the authority to regulate the way lands are used or impose its policies on lands it does not own, and NPS does not own any land in the proposed NRA boundaries. 
  • The NRA designation will not impact local land use authority over private lands or any lands the Nation Park Service does not own.
  • The NRA will NOT establish additional regulatory or land use authorities over local governments.
  • NRAs are subject to existing water rights so all existing water rights will remain intact and unaffected.
  • Legislation will ensure the NRA designation does NOT impact infrastructure for flood control, protection, storage, and transportation of water, treatment of water and wastewater, management of solid waste or utilities. 
  • Management of water supply and treatment plants will continue under current authorities.
  • The NRA will not include new or future beneficial uses or requirements for water supply, water quality, or air quality regulations.
  • Eminent domain will not be used for land acquisition.
Why do we need an NRA to protect this area?
San Gabriel Mountains – The San Gabriel Mountains are visited by over 3 million people each year. However, persistent trash, graffiti, and safety issues increase fire dangers, decrease water quality, and threaten the ecology and unique habitats of the mountains. Resources are needed to make sure people can still enjoy this open space while also maintaining it better.
  • River Corridors and Puente Hills – The river corridors and Puente Hills provide important ecological connections to the mountains. But parks in these urban areas are few and far between, and lack the resources to adequately provide opportunities for residents and to walk, jog, bike, picnic, or enjoy other outdoor recreational activities.
  • Economic Value and Resources – Numerous studies have shown that recreational spaces increase property value and increase revenues for local businesses. An NRA designation could bring the kind of resources and recognition that places like Santa Monica and the West Side already enjoy. Additionally, California is a donor state. For every $1 we send to the Federal Government, we only get around .78 cents back. That’s 20% of our tax dollars we are losing out on, while other states benefit. This NRA is one way to get some of our tax dollars back, and encourage more economic activity.
  • Public Health and Environmental Justice – Los Angeles is the most park-poor region in the United States. New York City has more park space than L.A. Lack of recreational opportunities – large or small – has severe impacts on urban populations struggling with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic illness. Opportunities to enjoy outdoor activity are vital for public health and the well being of people of all ages and walks of life.
What are the benefits of the NRA?
The NRA will allow the National Park Service to contribute to community-based, community-driven projects. For example, it can help cities create more pocket parks and walking paths among their communities, as well as access points to existing trails and bike paths. It can help improve signage, and increase education about the environment, fire safety, the special history of the region, and more.  In the mountains, where there are too few resources to handle the current volume of visitation, NPS could build bathroom facilities, picnic areas, and better parking grounds.  Rangers could make sure trash does not end up in the rivers that supply our drinking water.
But these are just some ideas.  In the end it is up to you because Rep. Chu wants make sure YOU are in charge.
Who will be in charge of managing and governing the NRA?
You will. This began as a local effort, and Rep. Chu will keep it that way. The NRA would be managed by a partnership of local, state, and federal representatives. The study suggested some examples of entities that could be included, but the details of how this partnership is structured will be decided through local input and ongoing conversations with a range of local stakeholders.
Rep. Chu is taking suggestions from the community, and will work with the local community, to develop a partnership that makes sense for the region. Rep. Chu wants ample local representation and local governance in the management partnership.
Partnership parks like this are more and more common as they allow for various stakeholders to come together and work with NPS resources to better manage urbanized areas for sustainable recreation. 
What would the role of NPS be?
The National Park Service (NPS) would coordinate partnership-based activities through cooperative management agreements, and provide educational, interpretive, law enforcement, and other services as appropriate. Since NPS does not own any land in the watershed or the mountains, no matter what shape the NRA takes moving forward, NPS will have no authority over the lands. Only through agreements would NPS have the directive to take specific actions.
Will Santa Monica Mountains NRA or the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy be in charge?
No. In fact, Rep. Chu believes the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains are unique and deserve to be their own separate and independent unit. Rep. Chu has heard loud and clear from many constituents and stakeholders so far that you do not want Santa Monica Mountains NRA or the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to be involved in a San Gabriel NRA.