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Griffith Park, a year later

JM, Wildflowers, fire damage, downtown, a year later, 5.7.08

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

all images click to enlarge

One year ago today, as the Griffith Park Fire surged to its greatest extent to the southeast, I came in from the balcony and wrote a post: Griffith Park Fire Surges Southeast. We have a great view of the Park, and I could easily see the fire had engulfed my favorite hiking trail and part of the Park: the trail up from the Vermont Canyon Tennis Courts. The trail goes up about a third of a mile, forks, and if you take the left rim you end up in the redwood grove opposite the Greek Theater.

Looking back at the post and walking the trail today for the first time in the past year, I had a chance to see what kind of progress has been made in this critical section of the Park. I also took some photos. And when I got home, I had a chance to revisit what I had written a year ago, some of which I'll excerpt in this post.

Balcony, binos: as of 8 PM, the fire seems to extend from about a hundred yards east of Dante's View behind the Observatory, then dips down by the bird sanctuary and all the way up the ridge opposite the Amphitheater and back down to the Vermont Canyon tennis courts, then jumps a second (or maybe third) ridge and disappears down into the Atwater side. It's hard to say whether or not homes have been threatened, but it's certainly at its lowest points on the southeast side of the hills that it's been all day, and residents of Los Feliz can easily see 50' + flames, sometimes 100', with sudden bursts of flame erupting at formerly beloved points along the Griffith Park trails.

Indeed. This photo from the west rim of the trail, looking east, shows the fire line, still very much evident even a full year later, and how the fire rimmed the tennis complex.

From the west rim of the tennis trail, you wrap around a bend and are looking west at Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theater from an elevated view. Last year I also said:

It's almost worthless, as far as I can tell, to watch the TV coverage. I keep going inside to check it out and they show all these telescoped shots of the fire behind the Observatory. The fire is nowhere near the Observatory---at its closest it was about 3/8 of a mile away from it. In fact, it is threatening Commonwealth Avenue, about 3/4 mile east of the Observatory.

Again spot on. Take a look at this composite shot, and click to enlarge. It shows Mt. Hollywood from a side view rather than a straight on view. The green you see is Mt. Hollywood dipping into Vermont Canyon. You'll note nothing is burned until you get very far up Mt. Hollywood, on the extreme right of the composite photo.

Then you drop from there, that path on the far right, into Vermont Canyon and the redwood grove. Last year I made a simple wish:
I hope the redwood grove opposite the Greek isn't gone.

Redwoods are tough. The fire did indeed dip into their grove. But the old growth generally survived. It was the younger trees that burned. Take a look at how it looks a year after.

I also said last year, a few days after the fire, that Tom LaBonge lacked the sufficient gravitas to repair the Park. A year later, he's made good on my observation.

A year later, I also don't understand any of the City's decisions---any of them. Not the decision to hydromulch at a cost of $2 million, even though the hydromulch itself cost nothing. Not the decision to let the burned brush on the trails fend for itself rather than clear some of it around the trails. Not the decision to keep chainlink gates on the entrance to some of the trails. Not the decision to let anything that can grow grow, including pernicious weeds, some six feet tall, along the trails. It's like nobody can decide anything.

A year later, it's like nobody really wants a Park---except, of course, the people least equipped to make it a Park again, and entrusted to the fewest resources: Park Rangers, hikers, neighbors, and passionate volunteers. A year later, it's like politicians view the Park as a dumping ground for all their idiotic, money-grubbing ideas: raising fees on golf, selling the naming rights to the great franchises, cutting the Rangers' budget. A year later, nothing in the Park is sacred anymore, though there will undoubtably be lots of political chest-thumping today, by a lot of lying kleptocrats who couldn't tell a redwood from a dogwood.