The Arroyo Link, creating a protected walking and bicycling path from Old Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco, is being advocated for by a group of open space and non-mechanized transportation enthusiasts.
By Brian Biery
In the 1890’s in Pasadena, just prior to the explosion of the popularity of the automobile, walking and bicycling were vital modes of transportation. With a population of around 9,000 residents, Pasadenans owned over 4,000 bicycles and were served by 15 bicycle shops. In order to meet the needs of an outdoors-minded public, an elevated cycleway was designed and built to connect Pasadena to Los Angeles. It was never fully completed, but it used a path from the Castle Green to the Arroyo Seco and from there followed the route that would eventually become the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
At that point in the city’s development, parks and open space were a key concern for the leaders of the day. For example, Scoville Park was created during the late 1880’s in the basin of the Arroyo Seco below where the current Colorado Street Bridge exists. Named for its founder James Scoville, it contained a ‘zig-zag’ path from the Valley Hunt Club (then located near the corner of Grand Ave. and Colorado St.) that enabled members to ride down the steep hill on horseback to hunt in the Arroyo.
About ten years earlier John Muir visited Pasadena and hiked from the “Arroyo Seco to the tops of the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains.” Eminently impressed, he declared that it “…would require a whole book for description…” due to its boundless beauty. Muir contributed enormously to the parks and open space movement of the early years of Pasadena. One of his greatest accomplishments was to invite Jeanne Carr from Northern California to visit the area and to purchase land here. The extraordinary outcome was that Ms. Carr fell in love with Pasadena, as had Muir, and converted the parcel of land that she bought near the Arroyo into a unique park named Carmelita Gardens.
Carmelita Gardens served for decades as a meeting place for artists, writers, horticulturalists and conservationists. Today that land is the Norton Simon Museum and the Rusnak auto dealership. North of this significant parcel is the 134 Freeway and to the east is the now-defunct 710 Freeway stub. Even with this intense use of the land there is an opportunity to still develop the vision of the 1890’s to build a pathway to be used by walkers and cyclists from Old Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco.
A Pathway from Old Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco
This pathway is called the Arroyo Link and is being advocated for by a group of open space and non-mechanized transportation enthusiasts. Originally spearheaded by Pasadena native David Wolf, who prepared extensive historical and planning documents in support of the project, the Friends of David Wolf and the Arroyo Link is now requesting funding for the design and build of the Link from the City of Pasadena through funds originally destined for the Gold Line Separation Project.
The City has already initiated a funding search for the Arroyo Link by requesting $2 million for its design/build in the Measure R Round 1 Mobility Improvement Projects Project Sponsor Submittal in November of 2018. This list of projects included the Gold Line Grade Separation, which was ultimately cancelled, leaving over $230 million in funds that can be re-committed to the previous projects or to new projects, such as the Arroyo Link. The estimated cost of the design and construction of this project is approximately $9.5 million.
Blair Miller, Former Transportation Advisory Commissioner said:
Funding from Measure R has recently been freed up for active transportation projects such as the Arroyo Link. This presents an exciting opportunity to complete this project now with full funding.
According to the committee, there are numerous reasons why the Arroyo Link is so important to the cultural, civic, historical and environmental fabric of the city. To begin with, it will contribute significantly to the City’s Sustainability Goal of being a place where people can circulate safely without a car by creating a protected pathway from Old Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco. One of the main reasons why some residents do not ride bicycles more often is because they feel that the city’s streets are unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists.
Pasadena’s first dedicated walking and bicycling path
Once completed, the Arroyo Link will be the city’s first dedicated walking and bicycling path which will build upon and add utility to the new Union Street Protected Bikeway by creating a safe, off-street route to the Arroyo. In turn it will provide permanent access to the Arroyo and the Rose Bowl which are crown jewels in the Pasadena Park system but are not easily accessible to people who are walking or biking.
Colin Bogart, Active Transportation Coordinator at Day One, observed:
The entire region is focusing on providing greater opportunities for safe pedestrian and bike travel. The Arroyo Link would lay the foundation for Pasadena to join that extraordinary system and ultimately enable people on bikes to go from Pasadena to DTLA, Long Beach, or the west San Fernando Valley.
The Friends of David Wolf and the Arroyo Link have submitted a letter requesting that Measure R funds be used to pay for this project to Interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz and Director of Transportation Laura Cornejo. In 2019 David Wolf presented the Arroyo Link plan to the Transportation Advisory Commission and, soon after, to the City Council where it was met with unanimous and enthusiastic support. It is hoped by the Friends that City staff will have the same response to this mobility enhancement and historically significant project.
City Councilmember Tyron Hampton stated:
The Arroyo Link Project is one of many puzzle pieces to connect our region and pays homage to our historical past. I think it’s a need. I’m a runner and I’ve noticed that different cities have safer options for active transportation than on the street. This link is that.
Brian Biery is a community organizer, documentary photographer, and Adjunct Professor of Advocacy/Social Justice at Pacific Oaks College.
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