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JAUNTS : Parkland Springs Back to Life in Wake of Fall's Brush Fires : Visitors can help rangers record recovery growth at Rancho Sierra Vista Park, where the landscape is already turning green.


After the Green Meadow fire tore through Rancho Sierra Vista Park in Newbury Park in the fall, the once-majestic grassy hills looked like a charred moonscape.

But new vegetation is springing up, and National Park Service rangers are curious about how long it will take the 838-acre park to fully recover from the fire.

To find out, they are cataloguing the new growth each month with photographs and plant measurements. Anyone who wants to participate in the cataloguing and find out more about fire ecology can join ranger Jaquie Stiver on a hike in the park Saturday.

Stiver will meet hikers at 10 a.m. in the park's parking lot. From there, she will lead them to 18 spots at which she took measurements and photographs in November and December.

She said most people don't realize that burned parkland recovers as quickly as it does.

"The first week after the fire, it was completely devastated, and there was no hope," she said. But Rancho Sierra Vista is already showing much new growth, she said, citing wild cucumber and wild rye as making fast comebacks.

Stiver said the park service hopes to track the park's regrowth over the next five years, cataloguing the 18 spots each month during the first year, then two or three times a year after that.

Using the photographs and measurements, she plans to put together an exhibit to show park visitors, in month-by-month increments, just how fast the re-vegetation takes place.

On Saturday's hike, she will invite participants to help study several aspects of the wildlife in the park: the plants and their growth, birds and their behavior, and the size of animal tracks such as the coyote or bobcat.

"They will be helping us with a lot of our record-keeping," she said.

The free hike will cover about 1.5 miles and run about two hours, with Stiver passing on information about the fire and recovery process. The park service will hold other, similar hikes throughout the year.

Rancho Sierra Vista abuts Point Mugu State Park, which runs all the way through Sycamore Canyon down to the Pacific Ocean. Historians believe that the area was once part of a Chumash trade route.

Satwiwa, which means bluffs, was the name of a Chumash village in the area. Because of this heritage, a portion of Rancho Sierra Vista has been designated as the Satwiwa Native American Indian Natural Area. Also located in the park is the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center. Although the park was devastated by the fire, the center survived and is open Sundays to visitors.

Jane Hulse, who spends as much time as possible out of doors, is a regular contributor to Ventura County Life. If you have any outdoor recreational news, send it to her at Ventura County Life, 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.


* WHAT: 1.5-mile hike, sponsored by the National Park Service, to study re-vegetation after the Green Meadow fire last year.

* WHERE: Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa Park in the Santa Monica Mountains in Newbury Park. Take the Wendy Drive exit off the Ventura Freeway, go south to Potrero Road, then west on Potrero to the park.

* WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.

* FYI: Meet ranger in the parking lot. For information, call (818) 597-1036.

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