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By SHEL SEGAL
Nature lovers from all over the San Gabriel Valley came together at Peck Road Park in El Monte on Saturday to commemorate the introduction of Rep. Judy Chu’s conservation bill into Congress.
The bill – known as the San Gabriel National Recreation Act – would designate the San Gabriel Mountains, river corridors and Puente Hills as a national recreation area, a spokesman from Chu’s office said in a statement.
“The legislation would allow the National Park Service to coordinate stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels throughout the region, and contribute to community-based, community-driven projects focused on sustainable recreation, education and the preservation of local habitat and history,” the statement said.
Chu said she was pleased to have introduced the bill.
“The Los Angeles region is one of the most park poor regions of the country,” she said. “We face two challenges as a result: there are very few options for Angelenos to enjoy the outdoors, and the options we do have are under immense stress from overuse. After a decade of consideration and collaboration, I am proud to introduce legislation protecting these mountains that’s consistent with our community needs and priorities.”
Belinda Faustinos, co-chair of the organization San Gabriel Mountains Forever, said Saturday was just a great day for her.
“This is just phenomenal for me,” Faustinos said. “I’ve been working on this for more than 10 years, as well, it’s just so exciting. I don’t even have the words.”
She added getting this bill introduced in Congress has been a group effort.
“We have lots of great partners who have been working on this effort for years: San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, that have been working on this with us jointly over the past 10 years,” she said. “And they’ve actually done work specifically in this park, to help improve it. … Having parks that are close to home are critical.”
Faustinos also said her organization’s partners are really to thank for getting the bill where it is.
“What I really appreciate about all of our local partners is that they just don’t come to an event and show their T-shirts, but they have been involved in this for years and they go up for hikes regularly, they engage with us on all of the different policy issues,” she said. “They’re very, very vested in this and they know how important it is for their communities.”
While the bill has been introduced, Faustinos said it would be foolish to think it will become law anytime soon.
“It’s going to be a challenge to get it through Congress,” she said. “We all know this Congress has been a little dysfunctional, especially when it comes to public lands. I’ve been in the environmental world for 30 years and I just know that everything takes time.”
(Shel Segal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)