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Fight continues against invasive weeds at Deukmejian Wilderness Park

A flare-up of non-native growth in Deukmejian Wilderness Park is causing concern among naturalists trying to shepherd the popular North Glendale site to a full post-Station fire recovery.

The 709-acre park was laid bare by the Station fire, which ripped through the foothills in August 2009. But with the destruction came certain opportunities. Glendale’s Community Services and Parks Department staff last year planted 50 big-cone spruce trees.

“The whole foothill area used to have a lot of big cone spruce in it, but it was logged in the late 1800s,” said park development project manager John Pearson. “We are trying to reestablish it.”

But if the fire brought an opportunity for restoration, it also opened a widow for non-native growth. During monthly “Wilderness Workday” events, city officials and community volunteers have battled back invasive species, including tree tobacco, castor bean, tocolote and tamarisk, Pearson said.


On Saturday, the city will host a second volunteer weeding event at Deukmejian Park that will target tree tobacco.

“Almost all of it is gone from the lower part of the park, but in the past couple of months up in the upper part of Dunsmore Canyon, a lot of tree tobacco has started growing,” Pearson said. “We are going to see if we can get a group of people together and get it under control before it gets ahead of us.”

The tree can grow up to 15 feet tall, Pearson said, adding that it spreads quickly and displaces native plants. Volunteers — who are asked to bring gloves and pruning shears — will be taught how to cut the tobacco trees off at the trunk and then spray the stumps with an herbicide.

They will also be tapped to water the new big-cone spruce trees.


Mark Stirdivant, a senior administrative analyst with the Community Services and Parks Department, said that the monthly workdays attract as many as 60 people. Volunteer contributions are becoming increasingly important as city budget reductions translate into staffing cuts, he added.

“We have a very active community up in the Crescenta Valley,” Stirdivant said. “A lot of people really appreciate, and are devoted to, our open trails, and Deukmejian Park in particular.”

Eliminating castor bean, tocolote, tamarisk and tree tobacco, and making room for native species, is critical to the future of the park, Pearson said.

“These four, in particular, make a big difference as far as the visual appearance of the park,” he said. “They are very visual plants and they crowd out other plants that should be growing there. The whole ecosystem is affected.”

Overall, staff members said they are pleased with the pace of the Deukmejian Park recovery.

“It has really come back,” Stirdivant said. “If you were to have taken a look at it almost a year ago, it looked like a lunar landscape, all gray and white.”