The Puente Hills landfill operated from 1956 to 2013. As early as 1990s, then State Assembly member Hilda Solis authored legislation to covert the landfill to a public park.
That dream just crossed a major milestone to becoming reality, with the settlement of an $80 million lawsuit. However, the Sierra Club does not support current plans for the park. " the Disneyland that they are imagining for this park is not a good fit" says Sierra Club's Puente Hills Taskforce lead Eric Johnson.
Now County Supervisor Hilda Solis offers us hope. The Puente Hills is now in her district after the lines were redrawn this year, and Solis' office has moved quickly to bring together park stakeholders and offer a new vision.
During a press conference this week, Belinda Faustinos, retired Nature For All director, praised the new effort as she introduced Solis. Hilda Solis talked about the need for a 'passive park', in contrast to the zip lines, gondola and other intrusive and pay-to-play amenities that are currently in the park plan.
San Gabriel Valley Task Force leader Joan Licari writes: "The San Gabriel Valley Task Force has been involved with the whole planning for the project, the public meetings, and commenting on CEQA documents. All along the way, we opposed the original plans that included a number of things to which we objected --zip lines, Disneyland-like things, etc. We advocated for a passive park for hiking, connecting to nearby existing trails, and nature education."
"Our task force supports the park, but I believe that it will be scaled back from the original plan. The park is badly needed and will be the first regional park the county has developed in 35 years."
Chapter Environmental and Social Justice chair Yvonne Watson also cites concerns about safety and public health with regards to the future park. It's difficult to guarantee that subsidence issues have been taken care of, given the seismologically active area and the forecast that it could take 60 years or more for some of the areas to drop the projected 125 feet. All the more reason to keep the park simple and not constructed.
Because the County has not been able to raise as much in funding as expected, they are having to scale back their plans -- we don't normally applaud less money for parks, but in this case the reduction in funding is bringing the planners dreams closer to what is right for this area.
The Sierra Club was well represented at Wednesday's press conference. In addition to Joan Licari, we also had Robin Smith, our Diamand Bar Taskforce and Chapter Conservation Committee co-chair, and myself as chapter director.
At the press conference, Active San Gabriel Valley director David Diaz called for more parks in the area. These are some of the most park-poor communities in the country, with far below the average acres of park per 1000 residents. This park will make a difference.
We will continue to watch closely to advocate for a passive park that offers the region much-needed access to nature, that supports nature education, and hiking. This is an opportunity to establish a park for people.