Verdugo Views: Group works to keep Brand Park’s future bright

In 1949, when Stephen Webber was 7 years old, his family moved to one of the streets below the former L. C. Brand estate.

The property had been a city park since 1926, shortly after Brand’s death, and Webber, who now serves as the park’s ambassador, would like to see it remain a city park.

Webber grew up surrounded by relatives who had lived in the neighborhood for many years.

He eventually moved away. However, about 25 years ago, he brought his own family back and introduced his wife Julie and their children to Brand Park’s library, play areas and trails.

He hiked and biked Brand Motorway and other trails to the top of the Verdugos and often to the top of the knoll known as Seven Trees Plateau, where once there was a large water tank that sat partially underground.

As a frequent park visitor, he was concerned when he spotted problems and often brought these issues to the attention of the proper Glendale authorities.

About two years ago, Webber learned of the city’s park ambassador program. He applied and was accepted as Brand Park’s ambassador.

“It has no authority. It does give me a little more clout when discussing matters concerning Brand Park,” he wrote in a series of recent emails.

Webber shared his concern that Brand Park — especially the trails — has received far less attention than other Glendale parks, particularly Deukmejian Park.

He said he fears that if the city does not maintain the park properly, it could revert to Brand’s relatives.

His concern lies in the details of Brand’s 1925 document deeding the property to the city with the stipulation that the park and the library be developed and maintained like the best public libraries and parks of a similar nature in Southern California.

If not, the property would revert to Brand’s heirs.

After Brand’s death, 600 acres were opened for picnics, camping and hiking. An additional 50 acres, with the family home, clubhouse, swimming pool, reservoir and orchards, went to the city after his wife died in 1945.

For four years after her death, the property sat padlocked. Concerned residents, including attorney Jack A. Crickard (later a judge of the Superior Court) wanted to know why.

“For some reason, city fathers didn’t want to keep the city’s promise to develop the park and library,” he wrote in a letter sent to me and printed 11 years ago in Verdugo Views, Aug. 18, 2006.

In 1949 (coincidentally, the same year that Stephen Webber first moved to Glendale), the city went to court, asserting that Brand’s agreement did not require the city to make improvements, only to maintain it as it was when Mary Louise Brand died, Crickard wrote.

When the issue came to light, Crickard and other residents formed a committee to protect the park from reverting back to Brand’s relatives.

That 1949 crisis was averted, but now Webber sees similar issues.

“Brand’s dilapidated trails, overgrown and broken culverts and run-down picnic areas (with one area completely abandoned), are in nowhere near the condition of other city parks, especially Deukmejian Park, let alone other parks in Southern California,” Webber wrote.

“This second-rate treatment is even more startling because Brand Park gets many times the users than Duke Park, which often is almost deserted on weekends,” he added.

To prevent a claim by Brand’s relatives, Webber regularly sends memos to Glendale authorities pointing out the most glaring oversights.

Despite his concerns about Brand Park’s future, Webber said he finds the trail refurbishment that started in 2016 to be very rewarding.

“For me, an especially gratifying part of the Brand Park trail work are the expressions of appreciation from hikers for the work we are doing, and the interest many show in participating in the future,” he wrote.

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In a follow-up email after the June trail day, Stephen Webber credited two people for their help: Marc Stirdivant and Karen Buehler.

“Stirdivant, Glendale’s trails and open space supervisor, schedules the workdays and provides tools and snacks. Buehler has taken training on building and repairing trails and makes certain the work is done as safely as possible,” he wrote.

For more information about participating in a future trail work day, contact the city of Glendale’s Trails and Open Space Program at (818) 548-3795 or on the web at www.glendaleca.gov/government/city-departments/community-services-parks/trails-and-open-space.

KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at katherineyamada@gmail.com. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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