Council Caves In To Special Interest Pressure

Early in the morning of February 3, 2015, the Pasadena City Council rolled back twenty-five years of restoration and nature protection in Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo by voting 5-3 to grant exclusive use of a large section of that area to the Pasadena Roving Archers and any one else with a bow and arrow. But no one else.

It is a classic dispute between nature and recreation, pitting the two against each other instead of providing a balanced approach. But that morning archery won decisively. The prevailing logic on the Council seemed to be that archery use there has become too popular and dangerous to allow the general public to use the area at any time.  Archers shouted down any attempt to allow the public to enjoy the verdant area even when archers aren’t present.

danger-sign-1aThe Pasadena Roving Archers did a good job of turning out a loud and aggressive throng who proclaimed the virtues of archery and recreation. Largely absent was any discussion of the rare environmental treasure that was being ceded to the archers or of  the potential for attracting major funding for Arroyo Seco restoration efforts.  It was a shameful spectacle. Only Councilmember Steve Madison fought for care and stewardship of this “sacred land,” although Terry Tornek and John Kennedy made important procedural points. Incredibly most council members even dismissed the concerns of neighbors about arrows landing in their yards.

Twenty-five years ago the Pasadena City Council discussed the same issues when they adopted the Arroyo Seco Public Lands Ordinance.  That measure declared this reach of the Arroyo a “Nature Preservation” zone and specified that archery could continue to exist in this preserve, but not expand.  On February 2nd and 3rd the Pasadena Council abandoned all concern about nature preservation and Arroyo Seco restoration and voted not only to exclude the general public from the newly defined archery range but also to instruct the City Manager to find additional areas in Pasadena for archery.

It was a bewildering action especially considering that the overwhelming majority (83%) of archers come from outside Pasadena, but apparently Pasadena officials are willing to accept the liability and costs associated with this dangerous sport.

The fight is by no means over.  Pasadena Roving Archers will have have a tough time getting its act together to straighten out its suspended corporate status, accept more substantial insurance coverage, produce range certification documents and put together training programs for wannabe archers, but it is clear that the City Manager and his staff are ready to look the other way on issues like this.

The few people, advocates and neighbors, who came out to oppose the agreement, made a valiant stand but couldn’t outshout the more than seventy speakers turned out by the Raving Archers.  Now advocates of park and open space protection are regrouping to consider how to best defend this “sacred spot” and public access to it.

Stay tuned.

You can view some of the highlights of a deeply disappointing City Council discussion here: Highlights  You can view the full five hour debate on the Pasadena City Council’s website: Council Meeting Feb 2, 2015.

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