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Parts of Griffith Park to reopen

Times Staff Writer

Portions of fire-ravaged Griffith Park, including the Los Angeles Zoo and Griffith Observatory, will reopen today, just in time for Mother’s Day, traditionally one of the park’s busiest weekends.

But exactly how much of the park to reopen was the subject of spirited debate among city officials Friday. City Councilman Tom LaBonge and recreation and parks chief Jon Mukri, within five minutes of each other, offered differing estimates of what would be open this weekend.

LaBonge, speaking at a news conference Friday morning with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the zoo and the park’s iconic merry-go-round would both be open to the public today. Mukri, who attended the same news conference but didn’t speak publicly, later said the merry-go-round definitely would not be open, and the zoo was unlikely.

The pair then had a brief public debate with LaBonge pushing for a faster reopening schedule than Mukri was comfortable with. At one point, LaBonge envisioned opening up some of the hiking trails in time for the weekend, a notion that Mukri immediately dismissed.

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“Jon, they’re going to come anyway,” the councilman said.

“It’s still too unstable,” Mukri said. “We want to open up the park, but I’m really concerned.”

Final say on the matter rests with Mukri, but by later in the day, the pair stood side by side and announced a list of park reopenings that came close to LaBonge’s full wish list.

Much of the park’s undamaged north side will be open -- including the zoo, the tram rides and the Harding and Wilson golf courses. The Griffith Observatory, which narrowly escaped the flames, will also be open to visitors with reservations.

The merry-go-round, however, will remain closed, as will all hiking trails south of Zoo Drive. Extra park rangers will be on duty to enforce that closure, and Mukri appealed to the public not to visit damaged and burned areas.

Officials also warned park visitors to be wary of animals displaced by the fire. “These animals’ behavior can be unstable at a time like this,” Mukri said.

A list of facility and road closures is at www.laparks.org.

LaBonge acknowledged that some of the reopenings are happening faster than the parks and recreation chief would prefer. One reason for his insistence, LaBonge said, was a desire to have as much of the park accessible in time for Mother’s Day weekend -- the park’s second-busiest weekend after Easter.

“I pushed him a little, because this is the city’s backyard. You can’t just lock the gate,” LaBonge said. Mukri, in the end, declared himself “comfortable” with the plan, and said of LaBonge, “He has watered this park with his sweat. No one loves Griffith Park more.”

Meanwhile, the city unveiled preliminary details of a $50-million plan to rehabilitate the one-quarter of the park’s acreage damaged by the fire.

The first phase, costing $5 million and running through July, focuses on surveys and assessments to identify hazardous trees and potentially unstable hillsides.

Phase 2, which would cost $20 million and run from July to December, involves stabilizing slopes and repairing draining culverts.

Phase 3 focuses on tree restoration, infrastructure repairs and reconstruction of Dante’s View and other damaged areas. That phase would stretch from 2008 to 2010 and cost $25 million.

The tree replanting effort received a private sector boost from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who donated $100,000 to the campaign.

Schwarzenegger pledged his support. “I will work with the Legislature, and I will work with the city of Los Angeles and the people of Los Angeles to find resources,” he said.

A concert by the band Modest Mouse, scheduled Sunday night at the Greek Theatre, has been moved to the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City.

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ashraf.khalil@latimes.com

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Begin text of infobox

Park facilities

Open

Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles Zoo

Riverside Recreational Center

Los Feliz Municipal Golf Course

Wilson Municipal Golf Course

Harding Municipal Golf Course

Pony rides

Tram rides

Sunset Stables

L.A. River Bike Path

Ferraro Field

Autry Museum

Travel Town

Live Steamers

Live Steamers Picnic Area

Betty Davis Picnic Area

Pump Seven Picnic Area

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Closed

All hiking trails south of Zoo Drive

Girls Camp

Boys Camp

Upper Fern Dell Area

Park Center Picnic Area

Old Zoo Picnic Area

Crystal Springs Picnic Area

Vermont Canyon Picnic Area

Vermont Tennis Complex

Roosevelt Municipal Golf Course

Pote Field

Bird Sanctuary

Shane’s Inspiration


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