Deukmejian among budget casualties

CITY HALL — Starting Friday, visitors to Deukmejian Wilderness Park may notice something missing from the area’s scenic landscapes.

Facing an $18-million budget shortfall, the City Council this week approved a budget that slashed more than $1 million for parks and community services, including $262,387 that supported the the city’s open space and trail programming.

While the thousands of acres of open space and trails will still be accessible to the public, city support will now be limited to minimal maintenance and the daily opening and closing of Deukmejian’s park gates.

The cuts will be most visible at Deukmejian, which will no longer have naturalists stationed at the wilderness park to maintain trails, lead hikes and other educational programming.

“That’s something that in the future we could look towards rebuilding, if for example we could develop a volunteer core to fill that gap,” said Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran.

Frequent visitors of Deukmejian Wilderness Park said the presence of park naturalists, including longtime park official Russ Hauck, will be missed. Hauck’s position, along with several others, was eliminated as part of a city budget package passed this week.

“Just having their presence there is really reassuring, especially in emergency situations,” said Richard Toyon, president of Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment, or V.O.I.C.E. ““It’s hard to say what the impact will be. But I for one will miss those naturalists. They were really beneficial and a key and integral part of the system.”

As the leader of a Boy Scout troop that regularly meets at Deukmejian, Toyon added that he has seen firsthand the many people who regularly frequent its trails.

The cuts come as parks officials develop several new grant-funded trails in the foothills. They would also go without maintenance.

In the meantime, community activists say they are hopeful they can at least partially fill the void.

“I think it’s an important time to show what the open space means to us,” Toyon said. “Hopefully, there will be a call to action for the community to come together and show our support.”

Parks Commissioner Dottie Sharkey, who serves as president of the nonprofit Glendale Parks & Open Space Foundation, said the group plans to meet this month to brainstorm options for backfilling the service gaps.

“I just hope we can make a difference somewhere,” she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Deukmejian Wilderness Park can call the Community Services & Parks Department at (818) 548-2000.

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