The natural beauty of over 700,000 acres of Angeles National Forest, north of Pasadena is currently only accessible by private vehicles, denying many the beauty and benefits of this vast public forest. But a local nonprofit organization is hoping to change this by operating the first public shuttle service to Angeles National Forest.
Nature For All, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting Los Angeles communities to nature and all its benefits, has received a grant of $995,000 for its “Mt. Wilson Express,” LA’s first shuttle service to destinations at Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The grant, presented by Rep. Judy Chu to the nonprofit in August, will enable Nature For All to begin the planning and building of the “Mt. Wilson Express” route, starting from the Metro L Line (Gold) Memorial Park Station in Old Pasadena to destinations including the Mt. Wilson Observatory, the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center at Red Box, Clear Creek Information Center, and trailheads at Eaton Saddle, Colby Canyon and Gould Mesa.
Currently, these destinations can only be reached by a private vehicle, thus many people who do not have access to one are not seeing the beauty or enjoying the recreational opportunities the over 700,000 acres of public land has to offer.
“Our San Gabriel mountains are 70% of LA county’s open space. So it’s our biggest open space. And we live in a very park-poor county,” Bryan Matsumoto, program manager at Nature For All said. “LA county compared to most major cities in the United States doesn’t have a lot of parks per [person]. So 50% of our residents don’t have a local park space within walking distance. So that is already an outdoor equity issue.”
Matsumoto believes now is the perfect time to begin the project as he noted that with the pandemic, a number of people who want to escape their “stressful city life” and seek a connection with nature for their physical and mental health grew.
“I’ve taken community members up there often for their first time, you can just see the stress melt off of people.”
With the planned transit, the nonprofit plans to offer “lots of trail heads, lots of different experiences for folks from picnicking to hiking, to just enjoying the views,” said Matsumoto.
In the future, Nature for All plans to offer shuttle services to other destinations including Chantry Flats or San Gabriel Canyon, according to Matsumoto.
The “Mt. Wilson Express” is part of a bigger vision: the Los Angeles-San Gabriel Mountains Urban Shuttle System, which will provide multiple shuttles to different trailheads connected to the Metro. The program aims to provide L.A. County families with healthy outdoor access to world-class trails and mountain destinations, such as the West Fork National Scenic Bikeway, and the wild San Gabriel River.
According to Matsumoto, the plan also involves education on ways to build up responsibility towards nature, such as trash and fire prevention, so visitors would become “future volunteers” and “protectors of the forest.”
Currently, the nonprofit is seeking more funding for the project. Stakeholder and community engagement process for the project is planned to start in 2023, with the goal of completing the construction of shuttle stops by 2025.
“Seeing funding become available to drive towards this vision of providing public transportation to the San Gabriel’s is thrilling,” said Daniel Rossman, Deputy Director at The Wilderness Society, a non profit that works to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for public land.
Rossman expressed hopes that an alternative source of transportation will reduce the impacts of cars and visitors on the forest and ensure equitable access for communities that otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to experience the beauty of the San Gabriel mountains.
“As these projects continue to develop, champions are looking to get community input to identify the best ways and places to cite these transportation routes. And are looking for support from the community to help realize this vision that ensures that everyone has access to the outdoors,” added Rossman.
For more information about Nature For All’s programs and projects, visit: https://lanatureforall.org.
To know more about The Wilderness Society visit: https://www.wilderness.org