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Griffith Park making a comeback

A brush fire began raging across Griffith Park on May 8, 2007, and scorched 1,200 acres before firefighters put it out. The park has been steadily making a comeback. "What we are in agreement about is to let nature do its thing . . . however long it takes," said Michael Shull, the superintendent of planning and development for Los Angeles' Recreation and Parks Department. "I don't think anybody's in any rush that it's not coming back fast enough." A progress report:

May 09, 2008|Jia-Rui Chong and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Hiking trails

Then: Right after the fire, all the trails were closed. Some trails were subsequently opened partially as park officials set up gates or fences to stop hikers from going into the burn areas.

Now: Only the Bird Sanctuary Trail, Bee Rock Trail, Fern Canyon Nature Trail and the fire road Vista del Valle Drive between Hogback Trail and Eckhart Trail remain closed. Bird Sanctuary and Bee Rock are in very steep areas where soil is loose. Workers are cleaning and fixing the stairs and amphitheater on the Fern Canyon Nature Trail, which is popular with school groups. Part of Vista del Valle caved in during rainstorms in January.

Landmarks

Then: Dante's View and Captain's Roost were badly burned. The fire also raced through Mount Hollywood and the Bird Sanctuary. The Griffith Observatory, the merry-go-round and the Greek Theatre were temporarily closed.

Now: Everything has reopened but the Bird Sanctuary, where the terrain is steep and the soil is still too loose. Several trees were recently removed at Captain's Roost, which still looks damaged.

Rebuild timeline

Then: Park officials were concerned about erosion but wanted the area to recover naturally.

Now: Park officials have spread hydromulch over 500 acres to protect the seeds in the remaining soil and slow down runoff. It will likely take another five to seven years before the park looks anything like its former self.

Flora

Then: The landscape looked like black skeletons covered in ash. Forestry workers removed more than 2,000 trees that were so damaged they might fall on park patrons or staff.

Now: Invasive species such as castor bean, tobacco tree, mustard and poison hemlock are coming back stronger than before. But many native trees have done well too. Laurel sumac and California black walnut started new shoots from their roots almost immediately. Some of the rare wildflowers that officials were worried about have also come back, including Humboldt and chocolate lilies in canyon areas.

Fauna

Then: Coyote and mule deer fled from the burn areas, showing up lost and hurt near people's homes. Some coyotes were apparently begging for food. Biologists were also worried about the San Diego desert wood rat, the Western gray squirrel, bobcats and quails because they seek shelter in the shrubby woodland that burned.

Now: Those species appear to be coming back to the burn area as the chaparral and shady brook-side woodland recovers. In the last year, there have been fewer complaints to the animal services department about coyotes near homes, a sign that many of the pups born last spring may not have made it through the fire. Park officials have recently spotted lizards and toads.

Criminal charges

Then: Authorities immediately said the fire was caused by a person. A suspect described as a man in his 20s who lives out of state was questioned and eventually cited on suspicion of smoking in a restricted area, but no criminal charges have been filed in the case, which remains under investigation.

Now: Prosecutors say they expect to decide whether to file criminal charges within weeks. Prosecutors must sort out whether the alleged actions were intentional, criminally reckless or an accident.

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Sources: Michael Shull, Vicki Israel and Peggy Nguyen of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; Los Angeles County district attorney's office

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