The 'Emerald Necklace' Celebrated at Event for Amigos De Los Rios, Environmental Partner Promoting Greenways in San Gabriel Valley

Published : Friday, November 15, 2019 | 5:44 AM

If the people can’t go to nature, Pasadena nonprofit Amigos De Los Rios will bring nature to the people.

To celebrate the hard work of the volunteers and to raise money to continue its nature education initiatives Amigos De Los Rios is throwing a fundraiser gala Friday night at 6 p.m.

The mission of Amigos De Los Ríos is to protect and restore open space by creating an “Emerald Necklace,” a green network of parks and trails throughout the Los Angeles Basin that connect the Mountains to the Sea.

There is a big need to bring a touch of green to people’s lives, even if they can’t get up into the San Gabriel Mountains.

Amigos De Los Rios promotes native plant and nature education initiatives based in the San Gabriel Valley River area.

The group teams with other nonprofits to bring nature to the people.

“Our efforts are combating public health issues exacerbated by a lack of green infrastructure in East County Los Angeles,” said Founder and Managing Director Claire Robinson. “The Emerald Necklace is a vision that we have for creating a mountain-to-sea greenway network connecting the upper watershed along the urban river corridors to the ocean, to create urban forestry benefits and active recreation,” she said.

Tim Brick of the Arroyo Seco Foundation said the group is a good partner in promoting the environment.

“They primarily focus on the San Gabriel River we’ve worked with them with regards to the Angeles National Forest and programs for people to understand the importance of the San Gabriel Mountains,” he said. “We feel it’s very important for like-minded organizations to share resources and help protect the environment, especially the L.A. River, the San Gabriel River and the Angeles National Forest.”

Though the organization was founded 16 years ago, it is only starting to come to many people’s attention now.

“Our nonprofit was founded in 2003 and we basically are inspired by the Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan, which calls for protections of the mountains [and] the coastline, and turning all the rivers into greenways that could serve so many different functions, and calls for creating parks at schools, and making schools green.”

“The benefits are public health benefits, from increasing urban forestry and green space and all the mental health and anxiety reduction and great opportunities for physical fitness and discovery of civic space together,” she said. “Our primary focus has been in more disadvantaged areas impacted by a lack of parks that have more infrastructure. But our vision crosses the whole L.A. basin. We train recent college graduates locally and nationwide who want to stay in this area. They help us design multiple benefit projects. We embrace native plants and enhance habitat that has been lost, and rediscover cultural heritage of diverse peoples and enjoy what the watershed has to offer.”

It’s the volunteers and the rest of the staff that will be celebrated on Friday night.

“The Gala will be celebrating over 5,000 students who helped us plant 6,000 shrubs and 1,000 trees at 20 different locations,” she said.

Not only does the group continually seek out volunteers and funding but also looks to partner with other nonprofits.

“There aren’t enough nonprofits doing the kind of work we’re doing,” Robinson said. “The Arroyo Seco Foundation with Tim Brick has done an incredible job with the tributary, and every one of these waterways needs to be adopted and addressed with the intelligence and focus that the Arroyo Seco Foundation has had on that reach.

“Our focal area for over 12 years is the area between Santa Fe Dam and Whittier Narrows along the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo in the South El Monte area,” she said. “So we in 2014 expanded our vision from that 17-mile area to the original Olmstead vision, which is basin-wide, which is landscape scale conservation.”

The group is looking for financial and volunteer support.

“Our goal is to get 10,000 volunteers,” she said. “We want to leverage the funding we get from competitive grants and plant trees, measure trees, do community engaged science at another level.

The organization held two galas, in its first year in 2003 and then two years in.

“The gala is a wonderful opportunity to meet with partners and grow the base of awareness. It’s something we take seriously,” she said. “We’re having fun addressing carbon drawdown. The need to draw carbon out of the atmosphere to slow climate change. In California we’re hit with the temperatures and it impacts older people, younger people. It’s a serious health challenge.”

The Emerald Necklace Gala for Amigos De Los Rios will be held Friday, November 15, at 6:00 p.m. at the Altadena Town & Country Club, 2290 Country Club Drive in Altadena.

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