|Urban & Regional Planning students from 2008.|
|The Golden Necklace trailway connects the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean near Long Beach via the corridors of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers and their tributaries, such as the Arroyo Seco and the Rio Hondo.|
|The report's recommendations include: improving lighting, using drought tolerant plants, improving the aesthetics, adding more seating and creating pedestrian and bicycle access.|
The Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers have long been afterthoughts in the Southern California landscape — natural beauties scarred by neglect, industrialization and pollution — but a group of Cal Poly Pomona students has crafted an ambitious plan to help revitalize the watersheds and their ecosystems.
The Golden Necklace, a capstone project for more than three dozen graduate and undergraduate students in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, envisions a regional trail system along the rivers that is inviting, environmentally sound, and accessible to traditionally underserved communities in Southern California.
The vision, which began taking form in early 2008 as a community service-learning project, culminated in a 50-page report and multimedia presentation that has received the 2009 Academic Award from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. The project was selected over entries from numerous universities statewide, including USC, UCLA and UC Berkeley. The awards ceremony is scheduled to be held at the association's annual conference in September at Lake Tahoe.
The Golden Necklace Project, inspired by Boston's greenbelt system of parks known as the Emerald Necklace, emphasizes the possibilities of opening the often cloistered rivers to the public to increase the Southland's sustainability. At its core is a regional multi-use trailway system for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians connecting the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean near Long Beach via the corridors of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers and their tributaries, such as the Arroyo Seco and the Rio Hondo.
Julianna Delgado, an Urban and Regional Planning professor who has overseen the project, says it was not a tough sell to students.
“There's so much interest in recreation, open space and environmental protection,” she says, pointing out that one of the project participants had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. “If we don't do something soon, we could end up losing a wonderful opportunity. The students embraced the challenge.”
The Golden Necklace Project provides a history of the rivers' uses, their current conditions, government planning efforts, and an ambitious series of proposals that are impressive not only for their sweep, but for their details: Landscaping should not only emphasize native vegetation, it should be inviting to trails users. Lighting should be energy efficient and ensure safety. Bike racks should be plentiful, and they should include covers that protect the vehicles from the sun.
Although the project covers nearly every foot of the rivers' paths, it is intended to complement the abundant work that others are doing — and it's designed to produce results. Students have shared their ideas in community workshops and have partnered with conservancy groups, the Arroyo Seco Foundation (founded over 100 years ago by L.A. booster Charles Lummis), and the city of Pasadena.
“We've had a very, very positive level of support,” Delgado says. “Los Angeles Council member Ed Reyes [head of the L.A. River ad hoc committee] has spoken to me about our ideas.”
Because the project is ongoing, many of the original Golden Necklace team members have graduated. Cohesion is a challenge, Delgado says, but student interest remains high. “We've thought of developing an institute at Cal Poly Pomona that would serve as a clearinghouse for projects,” Delgado says. ”It would also be a wonderful way to join efforts in Urban and Regional Planning with others — the Landscape Architecture department and the Center for Regenerative Studies — to improve the quality of life for all Southern Californians while providing a professional, 'learn-by-doing' experience for our talented students.”
To view the report, visit www.arroyoseco.org/goldennecklace/publications/GoldenNecklaceReportFinal.pdf.