The Apache Pow Wow

New Efforts to Clean Arboretum Waterways

Robinson Lee

If you have ever seen the ponds at the LA Arboretum, in our very own city of Arcadia, you may have noticed a concerning appearance of the water. Through the murky waters of the Arboretum’s Baldwin Lake are pieces of plastic, chemical contaminants, and overgrown algae which can haunt one’s memories. Runoff from the 210 freeway doesn’t help either. Baldwin Lake stinks with pollution so much that waterfowl are recognizing the hazardousness nature of the water and are ultimately skipping the lake despite its former reputation as a spot to break during migration. Its neighbor, Tule Pond, is not in a healthy condition either, as it is dry as Death Valley yet as equally polluted as Baldwin Lake. Alas, this may also be due to the actions of Hollywood as they have previously filmed movies such as Tarzan, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious at the Arboretum. Hollywood is notorious for their large carbon footprint on the sites that they touch from large-scale scene productions to the mass amounts of electricity used for light projection. These movies have contributed to the downfall of Baldwin Lake and Tule Pond, which was used as a scene for its flowers and scenic cottage view. In fact, according to a report from Tetra Tech, a Pasadena engineering firm in August 2015, it would take significant effort to cleanse the water and any lingering material would be hazardous and “must be disposed of as hazardous waste.” It will take a significant cleanup effort to return the waterways to its previous state. However, action is being taken to preserve and clean up the lake.

A collection of different nonprofit groups, cities, and the country are attempting to reverse the negative change inflicted upon nature. A project dubbed, the “Arcadia Wash Ecosystem Restoration Project”, will be commenced for study as it as approved by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board which is expected to decide on the issue in October. The process of the project, explained by Vanessa Hevener, environmental services officer for the city of Arcadia, would include cleaning dirty stormwater from concrete, injecting said water into the Raymond Basin, and diverting the rest of the water into Baldwin Lake. A possible restoration of Tule Pond is in progress upon further approval though it is currently not a part of the initial plan. The cost of the project has yet to be calculated, and it is predicted that if the project is to be approved, then the lake and the pond could revitalize in 5 years. The “Save Baldwin Lake” group, the Arboretum Foundation, the Arcadia Historical Society, and the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe are supportive of the city’s and county’s plan, despite having different objectives. The Arboretum Foundation and the Arcadia Historical Society both have desires to restore the work done on the lake with a ceremony honoring Arcadia’s founder, Elias Jackson Baldwin held on Sept. 13. Yet the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe have a different motivation than honoring the city’s founder.

The Gabrielino-Tongva tribe has existed within the San Gabriel Valley and occupied the land now known as the Arboretum, among the whole valley about 3000 years ago, though they were pushed out by settlers on the land. The Arboretum land is notable due to its location on a spring which has historical value. The tribe wants to see an accurate historical representation of their history on that land by adding decoration such as the recreation of a village or a tomol canoe in the lake. “We used to have a village there,” said Linda Candelaria, acting chairwoman of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. “But the Tongva people got lost and the area has been let go.” She states. “It looks dirty,” she continued. “I remember coming here, and it looked so beautiful. Now it is not like it used to be.” Hollywood’s influence has left little representation for Native Americans, she also states referring to the effects of Hollywood on Arboretum land.

The future of Baldwin Lake and Tule Pond remains in the air as October is looming over. Will efforts to clean up the lake be successful? Will Baldwin Lake and Tule Pond be left to decay? Or will fate have something else in store for the waterways? Only time can tell.

Photo courtesy of TROVER.COM

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New Efforts to Clean Arboretum Waterways