As the public regains access to a huge swath of the fire-damaged Angeles National Forest, officials say attention will now focus on areas that are more difficult to rehabilitate.
Forest supervisors reopened 41,000 acres to the public over Memorial Day weekend, but some 46,000 acres remain off limits, three years after the Station fire ripped across the mountain range.
At a meeting last week, officials said they hope to open another large chunk of land later this year.
“We’ve been focusing on lower-hanging fruit...and haven’t been up [there],” said Mike McIntyre, a ranger on the Los Angeles River District and former Angeles National Forest archaeologist. “We need to get up there to do inventory of the trail.”
The land that was reopened — mostly south of the Big Tujunga Dam — includes the Stone Canyon Trail, Trail Canyon Trail and the Delta Flat recreation areas.
The Arroyo Seco Canyon above Jet Propulsion Laboratory remains closed.
Officials hope to open half of the area burned in the Station fire later this year, Angeles National Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras said, adding that his team is “at a crossroads” with recovery efforts.
A reforestation effort in the burn areas has had mixed results, with rangers reporting earlier this year that roughly a quarter of the 900,000 seedlings planted had survived.
Contreras said at a meeting last week that the Forest Service needs the continued support of conservation groups and volunteers willing to weed, water and rehabilitate recreation areas. But he and others said federal budget woes are slowing the recovery effort.
“We need volunteers, super bad,” Contreras said. “We’ve got so many people with the passion you have...but the hard part for us is we don’t have the staff and resources to direct them.”
Most of the remaining closed area is “probably safe,” McIntyre said.
But at a meeting with volunteers and nature enthusiasts, he said that in some areas human activity might jeopardize the recovery of wildlife.
“And the hiking trails — we haven’t walked all of them to make sure they’re safe,” McIntyre said. “Hopefully, before the end of summer we might have another chunk of this ready to open."
-- By Beige Luciano-Adams, for Times Community News