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Pacific Asian Heritage Runs Deep in San Gabriel Mountains

PHOTO: The proximity to the busy LA metro area is one reason groups want to preserve the San Gabriel Mountains. During Asian Pacific Heritage Month, groups highlighted the historical contributions of Asian Pacific islanders to the area and said they support a proposal to make it a National Recreation Area. Credit: BobBushPhoto/iStockphoto.com
PHOTO: The proximity to the busy LA metro area is one reason groups want to preserve the San Gabriel Mountains. During Asian Pacific Heritage Month, groups highlighted the historical contributions of Asian Pacific islanders to the area and said they support a proposal to make it a National Recreation Area. Credit: BobBushPhoto/iStockphoto.com
May 30, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month, several groups are highlighting the historical contributions Asian Pacific islanders have made in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Mark Masaoka, policy director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), says this relationship is not that well known.

"So, we're getting the word out there of mutual appreciation of earlier generations of Asian Americans being involved in conservation and the environment,” he says. “And so, it's not just young Asian Americans who are concerned about it, but previous generations have been."

Masaoka says Rio Vista Park in El Monte has displays with historic photos of multi-cultural populations farming the lands.

Also, in the 1980s, a Chinese outdoor club performed trail maintenance, road cleanup and led hiking trips in the mountains.

Masaoka says his group supports upcoming legislation from U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California to protect these lands.

Chu's legislation would designate the San Gabriel Mountains and river corridor as a National Recreation Area, which Masaoka says would help protect this part of Asian American history.

"It would have the kinds of things you see in national parks, you know – a visitors center, better access to parking, interpretive programs,” he points out. “Those are the things we'd like to see.”

Jackson Lam, project coordinator for Bike San Gabriel Valley, leads cycling tours along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers.

Some of the bike trails go past areas where early Asian American settlers first moved in San Gabriel Valley when it was farmland.

Lam says a national recreation area designation could provide additional funding to protect the waterways many bike trails also follow.

"They're a great north-south connection for bicycles and pedestrians, because cars aren't allowed there,” he says. “And so, we want to enhance the area, put up more lighting, perhaps have patrols."

The area provides more than 70 percent of LA County's open space and is visited by more than 3 million people every year.


Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA