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An innovative proposal to restore a portion of the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena to its original natural state--and beauty--is gaining support among Pasadena officials.

At the heart of the plan is removal of part of a 50-year-old concrete flood control channel so that water, when there is water, would course naturally through a restored stream bed and small ponds behind miniature dams. The park would stretch a mile and a half south from the Ventura Freeway bridge. The arroyo in that area is deep enough to contain flood waters and debris without risk to adjacent houses. And that same depth and contour would reinforce the potential for development of a marvelous recreation area, secluded though close to the urban center.

The idea came from three graduate students at Cal Poly Pomona, working under a $25,000 commission from the City of Pasadena. It would not be cheap. One estimate is $4.4 million. In one sense, that is a small price to pay for such an asset, a priceless resource. The project has already aroused concern from the county Department of Public Works, which has been quick to point out how effectively the flood control channel, ugly as it may be, has functioned to control dangerous flooding. What if the uncontrolled, meandering stream flooded to erode the banks of the Arroyo and imperil homes above? That is a most unlikely risk with other solutions, it seems to us. And that argument ignores the fact that the plan will preserve virtually all of the channel, from Devil’s Gate Dam, north of the Rose Bowl, south to its terminus near Dodger Stadium. Only the small section between the Ventura Freeway and the La Loma Road bridges would be removed.

At the end of the last century, this stretch of the Arroyo Seco attracted a distinguished colony of artisans, who made their homes nearby, and was the subject of many artists. How splendid it would be to recreate that inspiration, all the more needed in this time of urban growth.

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