Objections to Hansen Dam Project Don’t Hold Water : The northeast San Fernando Valley deserves the federal money allocated for proposed restoration. The park is a regional facility that everyone has a right to use and enjoy.
In a few months, work will get under way to re-create one of our family’s fondest childhood memories: the lake at Hansen Dam.
As someone who grew up just a couple of blocks away, Vicki remembers how her Morgan mare Penny loved taking a swim in the 130-acre lake. One of her first jobs as a teen-ager was at the pony rides at the adjacent park.
Hansen Dam was a world away from Lew’s childhood in North Hollywood. He used to go to the lake to swim and fish. Old-timers tell him the lake was always good fishing, but you can’t prove it by him. He doesn’t remember ever coming home with anything but wet clothes and an empty hook.
For more than 30 years, Holiday Lake at Hansen Dam provided swimming, boating and fishing for the burgeoning San Fernando Valley. It inspired people who lived in the clusters of homes among orchards and truck farms to name their community Lake View Terrace. For low-income and middle-income families like the ones we grew up in, it provided low-cost recreation: Along with the pony ride, there was a merry-go-around, a train ride and Hansen Dam Stables, where for a few bucks you could rent a horse to explore the trails encircling the lake.
Then it all changed.
Starting in 1969 and about every three years thereafter, floodwaters from Big and Little Tujunga canyons choked the lake with silt and residue. The Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which operates the recreation facilities, threw up their hands and failed to dredge the silt. By the mid-1970s, the once huge lake was a few acres of muck. Despite a community outcry, the lake was in effect allowed to die.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, Rep. Howard Berman began applying pressure for restoration. He created the 50-member Hansen Dam Advisory Committee, which worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to create a master plan. His persistence brought commitments of close to $10 million in federal money, which, combined with $10 million from a parks bond issue, has made the start of construction a reality.
Unfortunately, a small group of misguided not-in-my-back-yard types and ultraconservatives have begun attacking the reconstruction of the lake. Saying they want to “stop the madness,” they have voiced two basic objections: They don’t want federal money spent for the construction, and they don’t want “outsiders” coming to the lake.
Neither objection is valid.
The entire northeast San Fernando Valley has long been ignored in allocations for federal projects. For this project, a relatively insignificant amount has been allocated over the last five years, and part of that came from royalties paid by the reclamation contractor at the site. The $10 million represents four one-hundred-thousandths of 1% of this year’s federal budget deficit, and eight- millionths of 1% of the federal budget deficit during those five years. If the federal government should miraculously come up with $65 million needed for the second phase, a 70-acre boating lake, the second figure will change to six-millionths of 1%. Yet in our community the expenditure will have an enormous effect, creating jobs and business opportunities and generating additional tax dollars.
We also reject the rhetoric of those who decry the arrival of outsiders to use the facility. Hansen Dam Recreation Area was, is and will always be a regional park. Just as any Lake View Terrace resident has the right to use any public park, anyone may use Hansen Dam. What if other communities opposed outsiders in “their” parks? Should local equestrians (many are opposed to the outsiders) be barred from trails in the Santa Monica Mountains? Unfortunately, some people use outsiders as a code word for individuals of ethnicity and color.
It is imperative that the city provide enough money to operate and maintain the facility properly. Many residents and the Lake View Terrace Home Owners Assn. have been active in that regard. Perhaps those afraid of outsiders should redirect their efforts toward working with Rep. Berman, City Councilman Richard Alarcon, the Los Angeles Police Department and the city Department of Recreation and Parks to help write the best possible plan.
In scores of meetings in the last 20 years, residents of Lake View Terrace, Pacoima, Shadow Hills and Sunland have demanded that the city and the Army restore the silted-over lake at Hansen Dam. It would be terrible if misguided NIMBYs and ultraconservatives somehow put a halt to this long-awaited project. It’s a shame that they want to.