Situated at the gateway to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, the Azusa Wilderness Park offers spectacular vistas of the San Gabriel River and the canyon. The area is known for its enchanting beauty and charm from which the site’s previous use as a beloved local restaurant “El Encanto” took its name.
The former El Encanto Restaurant, originally built in the 1920’s to house the San Gabriel Canyon Forest Ranger, now hosts the offices of the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the Watershed Conservation Authority. The Hilda Solis River Outlook and native garden in front of the building provides a sneak peak of improvements and interpretive features to come. This outlook is also a trailhead for a popular 1 mile walk (2 miles round trip) along North Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, which follows the San Gabriel River.
Many agencies, non-government organizations, and local community members are involved in the visioning and conceptualization of the Azusa Wilderness Park. The local community-driven Azusa General Plan identifies the site has a priority area for the establishment of a ‘City Nature Preserve’. Covering a more regional vision for the San Gabriel River, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works’ 2006 San Gabriel River Corridor Master Plan includes the ‘Azusa Canyon River Park’ as an enhancement project sponsored by the City of Azusa.
With an established vision for the park and an early acquisition by the City of approximately 3 acres, the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and the Californian Natural Resources Agency granted the WCA funding for two additional park land purchases. WCA first acquired the 40± acre El Encanto property in 2006 followed by a purchase of the 27± Canyon Inn property in 2008. The current vision for the park covers 70± acres.
It is the goal of the WCA to create a park that will be a model for sustainable, multi-benefit watershed projects that address the open space recreation and watershed needs of the region. As the 70± acre Azusa Wilderness Park is restored and developed, it will include expanded trail systems, restored native habitat, outdoor classroom, special event pavilion, and a children’s adventure play experience offering hands-on exposure to nature and natural processes of the river and the canyon. As the park is situated as an orientation site for recreational opportunities located throughout the San Gabriel Canyon future development plans include a multi-use facility offering dining services, merchandise, and visitor information about the canyon and National Monument.
Conceptual development planning documents completed in 2007 and 2012, corresponding to the El Encanto and Canyon Inn properties respectively, collectively form a master plan for the park. Both documents were developed through a stakeholder-driven process that included a robust community involvement program and input from a targeted stakeholder steering committee. Spanning from these planning efforts the acquired lands will be developed into a river-focused park with a safe connection to the San Gabriel River Bike Trail and foothill trails, a visitor orientation facility, day use picnicking, multiuse pavilion, natural play area, special use camping, river overlooks, habitat restoration, and interpretive installations.
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Entry Improvements Project
The Azusa Wilderness Park Entry Improvements will be the next part of the new park. This will be a welcoming entrance to the Azusa Wilderness Park where visitors will be able to plan events, bring children to play in an interactive adventure playground, and enjoy a meal overlooking the San Gabriel River Canyon. Other improvements include the extension of the San Gabriel River Bike Trail and construction of a roundabout to slow down vehicular travel along State Route 39, at the entry to the park at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road. Development of the roundabout will provide for a safer crossing into the park for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Project development is currently in design and permitting phase. The WCA is also actively fundraising for the project, which is estimated to cost $8 million to construct. Target grant funding sources include local, State, federal and private park development and watershed enchantment. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2017.
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River Wilderness Park Master Plan
Entry Improvements Final Design Concept
El Encanto Conceptual Development Plan
Canyon Inn Conceptual Development Plan
Conceptual Development Reports:
El Encanto Conceptual Development Report
Canyon Inn Conceptual Development Report
Notice of Intent: Canyon Inn Supplement to the River Wilderness Park Master Plan
Programmatic Initial Studyand Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration: Canyon Inn Supplement to the River Wilderness Park Master Plan
IS/MND Appendix A: Air Quality Impact Analysis
IS/MND Appendix B: Biological Resources Technical Report
IS/MND Appendix C: Preliminary Jurisdictional Delineation
IS/MND Appendix D: Cultural Resources Assessment
IS/MND Appendix E: Paleontological Report
IS/MND Appendix F: GHG Analysis
IS/MND Appendix G-1: Traffic Assessment
IS/MND Appendix G-2: Traffic Assessment