The natural beauty of over 700,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, north of Pasadena, is currently only accessible by private vehicles, depriving many of the beauty and benefits of this vast public forest. But a local nonprofit hopes to change that by operating the first public shuttle service to the Angeles National Forest.
Nature For All, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Los Angeles communities to nature and all its benefits, has received a $995,000 grant for its “Mt. Wilson Express” project, the world’s first shuttle service from LA to destinations in Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The grant, presented by Representative Judy Chu to the nonprofit in August, will allow Nature For All to begin planning and construction of “Mt. Wilson Express,” from the Memorial Park L (gold) line subway station in Old Pasadena to destinations such as Mount Wilson Observatory, Haramokngna Native American Cultural Center in Red Box, Clear Creek and trailheads at Eaton Saddle, Colby Canyon and Gould Mesa.
Currently, these destinations can only be reached by private vehicle, so many people who do not have access to them do not see the beauty or enjoy the recreational opportunities that the more than 700,000 acres of public land have to offer.
“Our San Gabriel Mountains are 70% of LA County’s open space, so it’s our largest open space. And we live in a very park-poor county,” said Bryan Matsumoto, program manager at Nature For All.” LA County, compared to most major cities in the United States, does not have many parks per [person]. Thus, 50% of our residents do not have space in a local park within walking distance. So it’s already a problem of outdoor equity.
Matsumoto thinks now is the perfect time to start 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 to nature for their physical health and mental have increased.
“I’ve often taken community members there for the first time, you can just see the stress melt away in people.”
With public transit planned, the nonprofit plans to provide “many trailheads, many different experiences for people, from picnicking to hiking to viewing,” 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 larger vision: the Los Angeles-San Gabriel Mountains city shuttle system, which will provide multiple shuttles to various subway-connected departure points. The program aims to provide families across the county from LA 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 responsibility for nature, such as litter and fire prevention, so that visitors become “future volunteers” and “forest protectors.”
Currently, the non-profit organization is seeking more funding for the project. The stakeholder and community engagement process for the project is expected to begin in 2023, with the goal of completing construction of the shuttle stops by 2025.
“To see funding become available to make this vision of providing public transportation in San Gabriel a reality is exciting,” said Daniel Rossman, deputy director of The Wilderness Society, a nonprofit organization that works to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to take care of public lands.
Rossman expressed the hope that an alternate source of transportation will reduce the impact of cars and visitors on the forest and provide equitable access to communities that otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the mountains of San Gabriel.
“As these projects continue to develop, the champions are seeking community input to identify the best ways and places to cite these transportation routes. And we are looking for community support to help realize this vision that ensures everyone has access to the outdoors,” Rossman added.
For more information on Nature For All programs and projects, visit: https://lanatureforall.org.
To learn more about the Wilderness Society, visit: https://www.wilderness.org