BURBANK — The city of Los Angeles purchased 80 acres of park land in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank from a private developer, further expanding the fourth-largest wildlife refuge in the San Fernando Valley.
Verdugo Mountain Park, a more than 500-acre refuge located northeast of the Bob Hope Airport, provides a dense haven of brush and chaparral plants for everything from lizards to snakes to bobcats and mountain lions, said John Kirk Mukri, general manager of Los Angeles' Department of Recreation and Parks.
"On 500-plus acres, there's probably anything and everything that is local to that mountain area," he said.
For several years there were fears that real estate developments in the Verdugo Mountains would obstruct major hiking trails and therefore limit access to open space, Mukri said.
But the recent land acquisition not only guarantees continued access to the wildlife area, but preserves the mountain ridgeline that would have been crowded by a line of hillside homes, he added.
"It is a regional area because you've got Burbank, Los Angeles and, of course, Glendale, and that trail opens up access to all of that open space," he said. "That 80 acres now gives us a trail that will never be taken away."
Proposition K, a voter-approved city initiative that distributes funds to a variety of parks and recreation activities, partly funded the purchase, Los Angeles Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said.
Greuel also tapped Proposition K funds in 2005 to purchase 145 acres in the Verdugo Mountains, which made the Verdugo Mountain Park the fourth largest open space in the San Fernando Valley.
"The purchase of the recent 80 acres by the city of Los Angeles is a huge step toward us actually protecting all of those Verdugo Mountains," Greuel said.
"It is tremendous to have access to those mountains and not be stopped by development."
The former owner of the parcel had applied for variances to develop the property for homes, but the Los Angeles City Council rejected his application, according to Greuel's office. The owner subsequently opted to take up the city's offer to purchase the 80 acres rather than reapply for the project. A Verdugo Mountains Open Space Task Force is continuing to seek out privately owned undeveloped areas to acquire as open space for the public, Greuel said.
"As we look in Burbank and Glendale, even portions of the city that were built up in the Tujunga area … we saw encroachment into those mountains," she said.
"That why we've been very quietly purchasing some of that land to protect it."