After a three-year campaign by residents of the Los Feliz area, a $650,000 restoration was set to begin this week on the deteriorating and vandal-plagued Fern Dell area of Griffith Park.
Los Angeles city officials and residents of the Los Feliz area gathered in the idyllic stream-bed canyon Monday to celebrate the beginning of the long-delayed project.
Sheldon Jensen, assistant general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, told a crowd of about 50 people that workers would start this week on replacement of the area's rotting bridges, broken railings and graffiti-splattered benches and trash cans.
The renovation, scheduled to be completed in four months by Hacienda Landscape of Los Angeles, will be financed through a $500,000 allocation in the Park Bond Act approved by the state's voters in 1984.
Jensen said the city will contribute an additional $150,000 from its methane gas recovery project to install a new sprinkler system to provide the misty climate in which ferns thrive.
No money has yet been set aside for replenishment of the dell's stock of thousands of ferns, many of which have been trampled or stolen by intruders.
Laurie Smith, co-chairwoman of Friends of Fern Dell, which promoted the restoration project, said the group will work to have the ferns replanted, but only after the dell is made secure from vandals, transients and gang members who have made its upkeep almost impossible.
Much of the fragile foliage that provided a backdrop for Monday's ceremony has been salvaged with the erection of a tall chain-link fence around portions of the dell.
"Truly, the security issue is a major point," Smith said in an interview after the ceremony. "If we don't get a handle on that, any plants we put in there are in jeopardy."
Park officials believe part of the security problem will be solved by the use of iron fences and railings in place of wood, and park benches with slat backs that cannot be spray-painted with graffiti.
Smith said, however, that she also is counting on a recent upgrading of the city's park ranger classification, a new Police Department program to provide a liaison between park rangers and the police, and the possibility of mounted patrols beginning this summer when the Police Department opens its new mounted-unit quarters nearby.
"We're going to take it one step at a time," Smith said.