NEWS UPDATEFRIENDS OF THE RIVER
AZUSA —To preserve the legacy of our limited resources here in Southern California is truly worthy and noble and is just one of the goals of the Friends of the River, California’s statewide river conservation organization.
The idea of losing pristine, yet easily accessible stretches of fishable water such as those of the San Gabriel River seems unconscionable. Without proper stewardship that is exactly what can happen, according to Friends of the River coordinator, Carolin Atchison.
Zones of preservation, including Wild and Scenic and Recreation designations will cover a large area of the local mountains including some 46 miles of river spanning 30,000 acres. The West, North, and East forks of the San Gabriel River, the upper segment of San Antonio Creek above Baldy Village and the middle fork of Lytle Creek, are all included in this current effort.
That effort is supported by area representative Congressman David Dreier who plans to introduce legislation supporting the cause later this year, according to Atchison.
AREAS CLOSED TO FISHING and all other activities may not reopen until summer.
Atchison addressed the issues while escorting Bill Reeves, Executive Director of the Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps (FRVC) and this reporter for a hike along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.
“Nearly twice as many people come to the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, with more than five million visitors annually, than go to Yellowstone National Park,” began Atchison. Urban pressures take their toll each year as graffiti, litter and outright vandalism continue to be a problem. Thirty-percent of Southern California’s drinking water comes from these watershed areas, according to Atchison.
Bill Reeves’ FRVC provides relief with an army of volunteers across the area, doing cleanup and de-littering duties while overseeing the general well being of the environs.
“Some people treat these areas like an urban park and not a forest, to protect the fish you’ve got to protect everything,” Reeves added passionately.
• WATERFALLS ALONG WEST FORK flow after a period of rain, adding to the river’s beauty.
When asked what Wild and Scenic designation would do for the areas, Atchison explained the details: “Wild and Scenic River designation means that the area will be forever protected from development and destruction from urban encroachment. While balancing the uses of the rivers and needs of the local communities, no activity can unreasonably diminish the current condition of the area, in perpetuity.”
The long term effects of the recent wild fires near Azusa have closed the areas from the second bridge above highway 39 to Cogswell Dam along the West Fork. The area is the posted catch-and-release section and without any fishing pressure should be in prime condition once it reopens. “We can’t say how long it will be before the Forest Service decides to open things up again, but probably not before summer, at least,” posited Reeves.
While passing the confluence with Bear Creek, Reeves got a glint in his eye and recalled past fishing experiences up this small tributary. “We’ve caught some nice fish about a mile up. And we’ve even started from Highway 39 and fished downstream along eleven miles of Bear Creek to where it joins up with the West Fork,” said Reeves.
Protection of sensitive and endangered species is a prime function of the designations and the West Fork has its share of animals in dire condition. “The California Spotted Owl, Nelson’s Big Horn Sheep, Santa Ana Sucker, Speckled Chub and a host of other species are all to benefit from these designations,” explained Atchison.
A short drive back down the hill took us to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River where we happened to run into Fisheries Resource volunteer Bob Gollihugh. Gollihugh was just starting out on his rounds up-river from the parking area and trailhead.
“There are plenty of fish below us here at the trailhead and on up-river,” advised Gollihugh before heading out to assist in maintaining the area.
With so much at stake it’s easy to see why Atchison and Reeves as well as volunteers like Bob Gollihugh, and even respected congressmen, like David Dreier care so deeply about protecting the resource here. The visceral beauty and limitless recreation must be preserved and with designations such as the Wild and Scenic Rivers there will be ample space and unlimited time available for future generations.
Bill Reeves, Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps www.frvc.org
Carolin Atchison, Friends of the River www.friendsoftheriver.org
Congressman David Dreier 909-575-6226 e-mail http://dreier.house.gov/contact.shtml
Top: EAST FORK WATERS RUN CLEAR for most of the year with easy access from the highway.
Bottom: FISHERIES RESOURCE VOLUNTEER BOB GOLLIHUGH helps maintain the areas around the East and West forks of the San Gabriel River.