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Hastening recovery

Volunteers head for the Deukmejian park hills to restore trails.

May 17, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

Heartened by efforts to reopen portions of the blackened Deukmejian Wilderness Park by mid-June, dozens of volunteers this weekend lined the rugged hillside to work on trails and remove debris.

The canyons, left black and bare from the Station fire last year, have sprung to life thanks to winter storms. Debris flows that followed loosened rock and eroded miles of trails, most which is slated to reopen next year.

Shades of purple, green and yellow mixed in amid the charred branches, lines of concrete barriers and other water-diverting devices.

The Station fire burned nearly all of the park’s 709 acres, along with 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and surrounding areas, clearing plants and trees that helped absorb water and hold the soil in place. Six months later, mustard, laurel sumac, lupine and phacelia color the hillside.


“Everything will eventually come back,” said Russ Hauck, a senior park naturalist who has worked for the city for 17 years. “The herbaceous plants, the grass plants, will come back sooner. And then the woody-stemmed plants will take a couple to three years.”

Nonnative castor bean, tree tobacco and star thistle, which can lie dormant for years, must be pulled from the roots and stashed away immediately so they don’t spread seeds, Hauck said.

“They have a way of starting out attractive, but it’s deceptive,” said Montrose resident Roberta Medford, a retired research librarian at UCLA.

Rick Yarnes, of La Crescenta, worked alongside his daughter, Samara. With others from Girl Scout Troop 15721, the pair filled large trash bags with the leafy castor beam. Samara, 11, said she and her parents regularly hiked the trails, and were anxious to get back among nature.

“We were told if we’re lucky today we could start rebuilding the trail leading to the live oak,” Yarnes told the troop. “We’ll move rocks so they can lay gravel on top of that.”

At the foot of the oak tree stood 17-year-old Rebecca Tjoelker, whose Gold Award project consisted of building two benches that she planned to place about a quarter-mile up one of the trails.

Park officials estimate it would take about 1,000 hours to clear and rebuild the reserve’s four main trails. The work would be threatened by winter storms, so they’ll begin the effort when the soil stabilizes next spring, Hauck said.

For now, Rebecca said the benches will remain under the oak, a destination for visitors when the park reopens in late spring.

“For people who use this park regularly, it’s been frustrating not to have any access,” said Bob Tjoelker, Rebecca’s father. “It’ll be nice to get back.”

Down the hill, Sabin Silberman lugged a pipe that park officials dated back some 90 years. Acquired in 1898 by George Le Mesnager, the property went on to serve as a working ranch.

Along with devouring dry brush and shifting the soil, the flames and rains cleared vegetation that for more than 75 years concealed historical artifacts left behind by the French immigrant and winegrower, Hauck said.

“These hills were meant to burn,” Silberman said. “It’s man that’s the problem.”

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