- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Charities announced Thursday that they will donate $3.5 million to spruce up a vast new national monument in the mountains near Los Angeles.

President Obama, who is visiting Southern California, was scheduled Friday to designate the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which will cover 346,000 acres in one of the nation’s most heavily visited forests. The mountains northeast of Los Angeles are a popular recreation area. More than 15 million people live within a 90-minute drive.

The National Forest Foundation said it has made a commitment to provide $3 million and already has raised nearly a third of that. A cluster of other groups are committing $500,000 through a new San Gabriel Partnership Fund to improve recreation facilities, clean up rivers and restore natural habitat.

“Too many Los Angeles-area families lack access to park and recreational opportunities. The designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument is a noteworthy step in making our communities more livable,” Hilda Solis, an incoming member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement announcing the creation of the partnership fund.

The White House says the monument designation builds on more than a decade of support for additional protections from various business and environmental groups, as well as members of Congress.

White House officials say Los Angeles County is one of the most disadvantaged counties in terms of access to open space for minorities, especially children. For many urban residents, the mountains provide the only available large-scale open space.

The area is already part of the Angeles National Forest, but the rules are more lax about what can be done in a national forest than in a national monument. Among other things, the designation would prevent new drilling and mining in the area.

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