City Crews Admonished in Bulldozing of Preserve

Times Staff Writer

City Councilman Howard Finn scolded the Los Angeles City Department of Public Works on Monday for bulldozing a swath through a delicate nature preserve in the Big Tujunga Wash while its crews were working on an emergency flood-control project.

"I think some of them are so damn callous that they don't care what they run over," Finn said. "They have to be sensitive to this kind of destruction. I'm sick of it and it's not going to happen again."

Finn and a caretaker of the 13-acre Tujunga Pond Nature Preserve met in the wash with public works and Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation officials to inspect the wide path of uprooted willow trees and destroyed plants cut by a bulldozer.

Rare Plants Destroyed

Nearby homeowners and a volunteer group that maintains the preserve were shocked to find the damage several weeks ago. Along with the trees, rare perennial plants called Davidson's mallow were destroyed.

After the group traced the bulldozer tracks to a nearby city storage yard, they asked Finn, who represents the East San Fernando Valley, to investigate the incident.

Edward Longley, director of street maintenance for public works, acknowledged Tuesday that his crews damaged almost two acres of the county-owned sanctuary in Sunland.

'Strictly Accidental'

"It was strictly accidental. We were not aware of the preserve," Longley told Finn as the group stood amid felled trees and turned-up sand and plants. "We are sorry and that's all there is to it."

Longley said two bulldozers were in the area during last month's rains to divert floodwaters from nearby Wentworth Street. He carried maps to show Finn that there are no markings designating the area as a protected reserve.

"Your operators need to be sensitive," said Finn, who hiked through the wash in a three-piece suit and leather shoes.

Finn pointed to a path next to the bulldozed area. "When they see a path, they should stay on it. They didn't have to veer off like that," he said.

Cleanup Unlikely

Longley offered to have city crews clear away the damaged trees and plants, but county parks officials said such a cleanup would only hurt the nature preserve, which has two ponds and is home to both desert and coastal varieties of chaparral.

"It makes no sense to saw away the trees and tear out plants in a nature preserve," said Patrick Sullivan, a county administrator for natural-area parks. "What are they going to do, haul it to the dump? In a few years, I don't think the damage will be that noticeable."

Tina Eick, a nearby homeowner who leads nature walks through the park, said her nature preserve group, Small Wilderness Area Preservation, is satisfied with the outcome of the bulldozer incident.

"This has put everyone on notice that this nature preserve is finally recognized," Eick said.

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