A Brief History of Archery Sports in the Lower Arroyo

Archery-Lower-ArroyoPasadena’s legacy of archery in the Lower Arroyo is the history of three different archery sports and three separate archery ranges supported and maintained by three different archery clubs.  First there was Pasadena’s Target Archery Range, established in 1928 on the east side of the channel by the Pasadena Target Archers (PTA) for the long-established sport of target archery.  Then came Pasadena’s Field Archery Range, established in 1935 on the west side of the channel by the Pasadena Roving Archers (PRA) for the newly invented sport of field archery.  Finally, there was the Sagittarius 3D Archery Range, established around 1950 by the Sagittarius Club and extending northward from the Field Archery Range.

While these three archery ranges were historically referred to as the PTA range, the PRA range, and the Sagittarius range, they have always been City-owned recreational facilities open to the public at large.  These ranges were not private enclaves of the archery clubs who maintained them.  Rather, they have represented Pasadena’s historic commitment to providing facilities for the public to enjoy these types of recreation.  For a period of nearly three decades from 1950 until the closing of the PTA range in the late 1970s, these three ranges made Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo a mecca for archery sports unrivaled anywhere in the world.

The Pasadena Target Archers range occupied the east side of the Lower Arroyo north of California Street from 1928 to 1975. The AIDS Memorial Grove was planted on the area beginning in 1991.
The Pasadena Target Archers range occupied the east side of the Lower Arroyo north of California Street from 1928 to 1975. The AIDS Memorial Grove was planted on the area beginning in 1991.

Since the late 1970s, the history of archery in the Lower Arroyo has been one of consolidation, not expansion.  First the PTA range was closed and its memberships were transferred to PRA.  Approximately ten years later, the Sagittarius club also folded, and PRA absorbed many of its members and activities.  Even though the Sagittarius range (northern range) was not closed at that time, as of the 2003 adoption of the Lower Arroyo Master Plan (LAMP), archery has only been permitted on the Sagittarius range for PRA events on a maximum of 13 Sundays per year.  Today, all three archery sports take place regularly within the historic Field Archery Range (southern range).  Archery activities that once spread over more than 20 acres on both sides of the channel have now been consolidated into a little less than 10 acres within the confines of the Field Archery Range (not counting the minor extension into the old Sagittarius range for 13 specific PRA events per year).

This consolidation has been possible because a field archery range can host not only field events, but also some types of target and 3D events as well as general archery instruction and practice areas.  However, the reverse is not true.  The sport of field archery cannot be accommodated on a target archery range, nor on the old Sagittarius range.  A field archery range bears roughly the same relationship to a target archery range as a full-size golf course bears to a driving range.  Squeezing all three archery sports into less than 10 acres has only been possible because the unique topography of the Lower Arroyo is conducive to a much more compact field course design than the 15 to 30 acres normally recommended by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA).

The PRA clubhouse stood on the west side of the Lower Arroyo from 1945 to 2002, when it was destroyed by arson. This photo was taken in the 1970s.
The PRA clubhouse stood on the west side of the Lower Arroyo from 1945 to 2002, when it was destroyed by arson. This photo was taken in the 1970s.

The fundamental feature that distinguishes a field archery range from a target archery range is that field archery is contested over a 28-target course presenting archers with varying distances and terrain conditions, just like an 18-hole golf course presents a set of varying challenges to golfers.  Field archers were shooting at 28 targets at the Lower Arroyo range even before the 28-target course was standardized by NFAA in 1942.  The Pasadena range has always had 28 targets except for one decade from 1963 to 1974 when PRA could only maintain 14 targets due to declining membership and resources, though the bales and shooting lines of the lower 14 were never removed.  The exact details of the earliest 28-target courses are not well documented.  However, ever since PRA resumed use of the full 28-target course in 1974, the Field Archery Range has remained in the same configuration for the past 40 years.  This is documented by City records and PRA records, as well as historical aerial photos dating back to the 1970s.

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