September 25, 2008

Purchased Azusa Parcel to Join Network of Trails Along Rivers

By Jennifer McLain

AZUSA - Just miles away from the bustling cities of the Valley is a swath of land surrounded by towering mountains and the flowing San Gabriel River.

And, once escrow closes Friday, conservationists intend to keep the 26-acre, $3.5 million parcel undeveloped.

"This is the top part of the Emerald Necklace, and our largest acquisition for it," Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said. "Instead of becoming a restaurant or being developed, it belongs to us now."

The property, at 2330 N. San Gabriel Canyon Road, is part of the Emerald Necklace, a 17-mile network of trails along the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers that will unify more than 1,500 acres of parks, open spaces and habitat corridors.

Officials on Wednesday celebrated the acquisition of the Canyon Inn and Cool Springs Property by commending the Watershed Conservation Authority and other local and state agencies that contributed to the purchase of the land.

"Having public land and nature close to home really matters," said Reed Holderman, senior vice president and regional director of the Trust for Public Land. "We need more parks, not less, in our community."

The property was purchased from the International Theological Seminary with the help of the Trust for Public Land and under the leadership of the Watershed Conservation Authority, a joint powers agency between the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.

The purchase was made possible by a $1.9 million grant from the Resources Agency's River Parkway program and a $1.5 million grant from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy.

"We preserve as much open space as we can for public enjoyment, watershed and public recreation purposes," said Belinda Faustinos, executive officer of the Watershed Conservation Authority.

The parcel will ultimately function as both an outdoor learning center as well as a place of rest and relaxation for area hikers and cyclists.

This acquisition protects open space along Highway 39 where the Canyon Inn once stood and adds riparian habitat to the El Encanto and Taylor House parcels. It now brings the total acreage in Azusa River Wilderness Park to 75.7 acres.

"This addition will now add 26 acres of public land to the adjoining Azusa Wilderness Park," Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha said Wednesday.

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