LA CRESCENTA — The green portfolio of 13-year-old Daniel Keifer, a budding environmentalist and one of a dozen residents to help officials unclog trails at Deukmejian Wilderness Park on Saturday, is already larger than many who gathered in the sprawling, outdoor monument to hiking.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 7,” said Daniel, near a sharp ax with a wooden handle that reached up to his chest. “I like building maintenance and getting out there. I tell my friends and they don’t really know what it is. But it’s fun.”
Daniel and the others who gathered Saturday morning in the amphitheater of the 702-acre Deukmejian Wilderness Park spent nearly three hours cutting back brush to clear the way for new trails to be dug in the coming months.
Saturday was the first of what could be many workshops on trail training and maintenance around the city that officials hope will rejuvenate water-logged and brush-blocked paths to establish new routes through some the region’s most popular outdoor sites, said Jeff Weinstein, a trails and open space specialist with the city of Glendale.
“The No. 1 enemy of trails is water,” he said. “We want to clean them up.”
Inviting the public to help dig new trails and clear brush was as much an effort to instill a sense of ownership for miles of city-run trails that traverse places like Deukmejian and Brand Park as it was a cost-saving effort by a cash-strapped city, Weinstein said.
But before participants could hit the trails, they had to learn about their task, including the three tools that would be made available to them later in the day.
Tasked with introducing the brush-clearing axes and rakes was Hans Kiefer, a trail crew leader for the Concerned Off Road Bicyclers Assn. As he extolled the virtues of safety first and trail maintenance second, Kiefer told the crowd about the Pulaski, a dirt-loosening tool with an ax blade on one hand and grub hoe on the other; the McLeod, a flat, square-shaped blade with a cutting edge on one side and a rake with widely spaced tines on the other; and the Hand Pruner, an oversized set of shears primarily used to cut protruding roots and small branches that encroach on trails.
Kiefer demonstrated how to hold the instruments and their different uses, stressing that a safe trail blazer is a happy trail blazer.
“We’re all out here to have fun,” he said with the Pulaski arching over his shoulder. “You don’t want to put someone’s eye out.”
For La Crescenta resident Bill Weisman, 54, clearing brush early on a Saturday morning was not only an investment in his neighborhood, but a beautiful diversion spent among wild flowers and warm sun.
“I live close to the park, so I come here a lot to hike,” he said. “It’s a magnificent park, and it’s underutilized.”
Saturday’s effort to clear trails at Deukmejian Park comes more than two months after President Bush signed into law the Rim of the Valley Corridor Study. The legislation, authored by Rep. Adam Schiff, sets in motion a chain of events that could double the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, known collectively as the Rim of the Valley, and which includes Deukmejian Park.
Schiff was widely praised for his seven-year effort to see the bill to fruition, but some on Saturday reserved praise for the city of Glendale to kick-start the trail-cleaning program.
“I have to hand it to the city of Glendale,” said Mike Lawler, president of the Crescenta Valley Historical Society. “This is something I hope will make this place special.”
JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.