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ENVIRONMENT : Sprouting Leaves of Recovery


Black skeletons of trees dot the hills at Eaton Canyon Nature Center in Altadena, reminders of October's fires. But now you can see them sprouting leaves.

Grasses and other plants are sprouting between the rocks of the wash, visible from the trails that have been restored by volunteers working on two cleanup days. Nature is right on schedule, regenerating itself on the site of disaster.

"It's not that fire damages nature," said Cynthia Null, president of the Eaton Canyon Nature Center Associates, a volunteer support group. "We're showing how fire rejuvenates nature" by clearing out brush that otherwise would not decompose.

"Fire creates ash that acts as fertilizer," Null said. "We teach this is just part of the recycling process. It just happened rather quickly."

The park is "cleaner and clearer than it was," Director Mickey Long said.

Long-term loss involves mostly man, not nature: the destroyed records from the Pasadena Audubon Society dating to 1904 that cannot be replaced, plus valuable and hard-to-replace taxidermy specimens and the nature center building. "Everyone was devastated for a couple weeks, but that's beyond us now," Long said.

Plans are in the works to rebuild the nature center. Although funding and other details need to be worked out, it looks as if the new facility will have several significant improvements, such as a volunteer office, a larger building and solar power.

"It was a very nice building, but we all knew of little things we'd want to improve and if we do that now we'll have a better building," Long said.

There will be landscaping from the park's entrance to the old building site.

"In that area, we'll put in native plants to enhance what's already there, but the rest of the park will be left to recover on its own," Null said.

Docents have been leading tours since the beginning of this month, including school groups. However, there has been one small glitch. The fire destroyed the records of which schools were scheduled when, and Null asked that any school that had scheduled a tour during February or March to call the center at (818) 821-3246.

"We don't have any way to contact them because we don't know who they are," she said. The center has reserved January to book schools that were scheduled, and will accept new groups in February.

Donations and fund-raising have brought in almost $50,000. The center also has received five grants totaling about $53,000 from organizations for landscaping, office equipment and a fund-raising consultant.

Money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Emergency Services will cover the cost of replacing the building and furnishings, but not the planned improvements. Los Angeles County officials have pledged to make up the difference, and the center is hoping to raise money for any shortfalls.

Eaton Canyon Revisited


* Daylight hours seven days a week.


* Family nature walks every Saturday, 9 a.m.

* Bird-watching walk, Feb. 20, 8 to 10 a.m.

* Moonlight walks, Jan. 27 and Feb. 25, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

* Twilight walk, Feb. 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.


* Another cleanup day is coming but no date has beeen set.

* T-shirts ($11) and sweat shirts ($27) are on sale to raise money. They are printed: "I helped rebuild the Eaton Canyon Nature Center."

* For more information: (818) 821-3246.

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