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Volunteers prepare to patrol Glendale's open spaces, trail system

Park workers are out to let hikers, bikers know they need to tread more lightly.

December 11, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
(Roger Wilson/Staff…)

They won’t write citations, lead hikes or carry guns, but Glendale’s new volunteer trail watch guards will almost certainly be dealing with difficult people.

On Saturday, the roughly 20-person team got a lesson in “verbal judo,” as Glendale Police Officer Larry Ballesteros called it.

Ballesteros took on the roles of obnoxious people — like a 24-year-old thrill-seeking mountain biker “with 4 ounces of body fat” — and tested the volunteers.

Will Campbell, a freelance editor from Silver Lake, tried to persuade Ballesteros’ biker persona to slow down. But he kept coming at him with attitude. He had a pretend $15,000 bike. He showed Campbell scars from death-defying feats.

“I ain’t afraid of that trail,” Ballesteros said, folding his arms.

“Well, other people may be afraid of you,” Campbell replied in a parental tone.

Ballesteros’ response: “Old people need to get out of the way.”

About 5,000 acres of parkland and open space in Glendale were left unattended by permanent staff after the city laid off its park naturalists due to budget cuts more than a year ago.

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That’s where volunteers like Campbell come in. He and 19 other like-minded people have been getting trained by Ballesteros and other law enforcement officials ahead of them entering the field next month.

The volunteers, officially known as the Trail Safety Patrol, won’t be doing everything the naturalists once did — such as leading campfires and interpretive hikes — but they will be there to report on trail conditions, assist in emergencies and advise parkgoers on which trails to use.

Sometimes, though, those parkgoers will want to take young children in flip-flops up a difficult trail, ride a mountain bike too fast or walk their dogs without a leash. It will be the volunteers’ jobs to convince them to change their minds and stay safe.

“Our guys are there to educate,” said Marc Stirdivant, a senior administrative analyst with the city.

If “verbal judo” — or persuading people to do the right thing — doesn’t work, and the situation escalates, volunteers are supposed to walk away and call police.

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