Glendale officials are preparing to recruit volunteers, replacing the city’s naturalists who were laid off last year.
The city has more than 5,000 acres of parks, but no one is patrolling the land to report damage and unsafe conditions or educate the public. But that is set to change by September.
City officials plan to select about two dozen volunteers to make up hiking and mountain biking units of the new Trail Safety Patrol in coming months.
“This will not be your average volunteer program,” as it will require training and a strong skill set, Community Services and Parks Director Jess Duran said at a City Council meeting this week.
A victim of budget cuts, the city eliminated its naturalist program — made up of two full-time staffers and one part-time staffer — last June.
The layoffs stirred controversy when two park rangers sued the city in July claiming they were wrongly terminated after complaining about a manager’s misuse of city resources. City officials have said the layoffs were due to cuts following an $18-million budget shortfall.
Following the end of the naturalist program, residents approached city officials to voluntarily work on habitat restoration, education and interpretation, trail maintenance, gardening and trail safety. During the past year, volunteers have been involved in all those elements except trail safety, according to a city report.
That’s where the new program comes in, modeled after similar ones in the Santa Monica Mountains and Oakland’s East Bay Regional Park.
The trail patrol is set to cover the Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills and Deukmejian Wilderness Park, said Marc Stirdivant, senior administrative analyst in the Community Services and Parks department. Dozens of people use the city’s more than 30 miles of fire roads and 7.5 miles of single-track trails on a daily basis, according to a city report.
City staff plans to find volunteers through referrals and environmental and recreational groups such as the Sierra Club and the Los Angeles-based Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Assn.
Volunteers, who must be at least 18 years old, will not have to live in Glendale, Stirdivant said. Although there will be about two dozen volunteers at first, each will be expected to work only about four hours a month, he said.
Volunteers must go through a background check and city-designed training program that will include courses in first-aid, park rules, park history, plants and animals, dealing with difficult people, and working with public safety officials, officials said.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Frank Quintero. “I can’t wait for it to move forward.”