The Rest of the Story

Stewards of Public Land support archery and all other activities in the Lower Arroyo

By Claire W. Bogaard , Thomas D. Seifert

Pasadena Weekly – 01/21/2016

Just tell me when it is safe for me to walk around my property.”.

That was the plea to the Recreation & Parks Commission from a homeowner who lives above the archery range in the Lower Arroyo. His property, which goes all the way down to the bottom of the hillside, is one of a number of private properties that serve as a backstop for the archery range.  

A Little Background 

During the 1980s and ’90s, use of the Lower Arroyo grew in popularity for many activities. Neighbors saw increasing numbers of hikers, joggers, dog walkers, birders, archers, families, casters and equestrians, along with the popular mounted patrol. School children from Pasadena, runners from Occidental College and high school athletes from the area were common sights. These activities were just what we hoped for in this historic open space and what the Municipal Code calls a “natural preservation area.”

But gradually, things began to change. The number of archers, mostly from outside of Pasadena, increased significantly as other archery ranges in Los Angeles closed or started to charge admission. (There are no admission fees at Pasadena’s range.) The numbers also increased from much greater interest in archery resulting from the popular book and film series “The Hunger Games.” Over time, bows became powerful weapons, capable of projecting lethal arrows across huge distances.  

In 2011, the Pasadena Police Department issued a report, indicating that current archery range usage was no longer safe and recommended several steps to improve safety. For the last five years, city staff has talked about making improvements to the range rules and operations, but no real changes or improvements have occurred. 

Meanwhile, arrows continue to fall on adjacent private property. Some have traveled over homes toward South San Rafael Avenue. On a number of occasions, the city manager, members of the Pasadena Police Department and Stewards of Public Land have met with the homeowners to view the arrows collected on private properties. The Police Department has reports of arrows landing on private properties and of archers shooting off-range into the hillside. Unfortunately, the Police Department does not have adequate staff to monitor the archery range.  

Under current practices, anyone can acquire a bow and arrows, go to the Lower Arroyo and start shooting — without ANY supervision, training or license. This explains, in part, why there are so many arrows landing on private property and why there have been so many close calls with people almost getting hit. 

The Position of the Stewards of Public Land 

The Stewards of Public Land view the entire Arroyo Seco as a great natural and historic resource, which should be protected for many uses and maintained with great care for future generations. The land should be well maintained by the city and available to Pasadena residents and visitors. No single use should predominate. 

We strongly oppose the recent action by the City Council (over the opposition of Councilman Steve Madison, now Mayor Terry Tornek, and then Mayor Bill Bogaard) to hand over about 10 acres of the Lower Arroyo for the exclusive use by one user group, the archers.    

The principal elements of the stewards’ plan for a safe archery range are as follows: 

* The archery range should be open on an exclusive-use basis only on weekends.  

* All users of the archery range must hold a license received after completing archery and safety classes. 

* Trained monitors must be present whenever the range is open to assure that the rules are followed. For example, no broadhead arrows or crossbows are permitted; archers are not permitted to enter onto private property; and targets must be locked when the range is not in use. User fees should be created to cover the cost of the trained monitors. 

The stewards also support the children’s classes because they appear to be well organized and properly monitored. But under current practices, these same youngsters can return to the range the next day and begin shooting without any supervision. This should not continue. 

Other issues need to be addressed, such as: 

* The role of the Pasadena Roving Archers, who do not seem to be interested in searching for solutions and compromises. 

* The Lower Arroyo Natural Park must be closed from dusk until sunrise so that no one will practice archery with headlamps — in the dark. It is rumored that those archers are hunting wildlife. 

* A process of notifying all the neighbors along the ridge of the archery range from the Colorado Street Bridge to the La Loma Bridge about scheduled tournaments, which attract very large crowds. All neighbors adjacent to the archery range need to be warned about the risk during tournaments. 

Given the challenges, controversy and huge liability issues for the city, the Stewards of Public Land has filed a CEQA lawsuit so that there can be an appropriate community conversation about how the Lower Arroyo Seco activities can continue to thrive with safe conditions and mutually respected open public access to this rare nature preserve. 

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