The Volunteers of the Angeles National Forest (VANF) have been staffing the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center on weekends since 1996. During that time, they have taught the public about the forest and animals that live in it, provided information about hiking, camping, and safety, and have run summer and school programs. Now, after twenty-five years, the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center, which the US Forest Service owns, is changing management and will now be run by a concessionaire. This change forces VANF to move to a different location.
The Grassy Hollow Visitor Center will remain where it is, says Jeremy Sugden, the Recreation Officer for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. “What is changing is we are changing the way that it’s managed.” VANF currently manages the visitor center. After they move, a private company will take over the management of that building along with others. The biggest reason being that “there’s some deferred maintenance on the building, and by moving to a concessionaire it will provide us some opportunities to help maintain that building.” For the volunteers that have worked at Grassy Hollow for a quarter-century, the move 2.7 miles down the road of Hwy 2 to the Big Pine Information Center will affect some of the services they provide.
The move will reduce the number of animal displays VANF can have at the building because the new location is smaller. The school program they ran where schools would bring students for a three-hour informational class to learn about the environment, animals, and forest safety through a hike; would also be impacted.
“Our school program was all linked to that physical area where we were,” says Carol Bishop, the President for VANF. “Now we’re going to have to try to adapt it and see if we can make it work in our new location because of the change of trails and area.” The volunteers that make up the VANF are mostly retired people from nearby communities that enjoy and love the forest and want to share that passion and knowledge with the public. Since the pandemic began, the public has been visiting the national forest at a volume not seen in a long time. Because of this surge in visitors, Bishop says she has seen a disgraceful amount of trash left behind by those visitors. “If you’re up in the forest, please enjoy it and take care of it. Take your trash back home with you.”
John Clearwater is the Public Affairs Officer for the Angeles National Forest. He says many facilities, especially the popular ones, have been overwhelmed by visitors since the pandemic started. “Some of those areas, the recreational facilities there are just not designed for that scale of visitation.” This has led to an increase in graffiti, trash, and noise. He asks that visitors be respectful of others, take their trash with them, and recreate in a responsible manner. “Treat the forest with care. It’s a precious resource.”
There is currently no projected date for when the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center or the Big Pine Information Center will open. The Grassy Hollow Visitor Center has been closed since March 23, 2020.