Perched more than 2,000 feet above Glendale and its surrounding cities on a crisp Saturday morning, Altadena resident Caleb Scott, 9, dug his shovel into the rocky soil.
His first stab at the hillside made a small divot, but with the help of his father, Rod Scott, Caleb picked away until he stood before a hole that was at least two feet deep and another two feet wide — a suitable hole for planting a seedling stone pine tree.
Caleb was one of five Boy Scouts from Den 2, Pack 512 — a troop out of La Cañada Flintridge that includes scouts from throughout the Glendale and San Gabriel Valley region — who spent a chunk of their weekend trying to populate one Verdugo Mountain peak with a variety of pine seedlings.
For Caleb, the purpose of the activity was twofold.
“It’s so there would be more trees to build animals’ homes so they have a place to live, and for the environment,” he said.
Dave Moreno, who recently served as an administrative intern with the Glendale park rangers, has been spearheading the effort. But the project, he says, is an extension of a more than 50-year-old experiment to introduce non-native but non-invasive tree species to these peaks.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service teamed up in the late 1940s to plant what is still known today as the experimental forest, two groves of pine trees that took root and thrived despite being given only about 12 gallons of water when they were first planted, Moreno said.
One of the groves, however, was torched in an October 2005 brush fire that was reportedly ignited by a cigarette butt, he said.
A few blackened trunks still stand in the shallow valley that houses the former mini-forest, but most of the once mature trees have since been reduced to stumps. But poking up from the ground next to the charred stumps are plastic mesh tubes, inside of which are pine seedlings that Boy Scouts and volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in La Crescenta helped plant in January, Moreno said.
If all goes as planned, the mountainous lookout at the top of the Hostetter Fire Road — a popular hiking and mountain biking trail accessed from Tujunga — will eventually be heavily populated by mature pines, which take about 80 years to fully mature, he said.
And its a vision that La Cañada resident and Boy Scout den leader Carol Van Citters was pleased to have her scouts help realize.
“I think it’s important that the kids understand that people can help nature and be good stewards of the Earth,” Van Citters said.
From an ecological perspective, Moreno said the potential forests would first and foremost offer new habitats for birds.
But Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said he hoped the trees would one day have a distinctly human-serving function.
“I would love to see the whole thing with a big forest,” Lawler said. “Because what it does is it gives you a destination.”