Winds caused widespread damage to trees at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles…)
The Los Angeles County Arboretum, where Santa Ana winds wreaked havoc on the historic collection of plants, is slated to reopen Monday, a week ahead of schedule and in time for holiday visitors.
The Arcadia botanic garden, one of the largest in the nation with more than 10,000 types of plants from around the world, has been closed for cleanup and rehabilitation since hurricane-force winds tore through the San Gabriel Valley on Nov. 30.
It will reopen in time for the thousands of visitors who typically arrive during the week between Christmas and New Year's, when many people are in the area for the holidays and the Rose Parade.
The arboretum was the hardest hit of several parks in the San Gabriel Valley and foothills.
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge reopened just days after the storm. The signature camellia collection survived intact and only six trees had been uprooted.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino fared worse, with 150 to 200 trees either downed or so damaged that they had to be removed. The gardens reopened the Sunday after the storm. Since then, staff members have continued to clear debris and field calls from people asking about the health of their favorite trees there.
But at the arboretum, the winds destroyed 235 trees and damaged about 700 more. Cleanup costs have reached more than $200,000, said arboretum Chief Executive Richard Schulhof.
Hundreds of workers, including county staff and volunteers, joined in the cleanup effort. In some cases, arborists have labored to salvage severely damaged trees because they are rare species or have a special meaning to the garden, including a 100-year-old Montezuma cypress.
Schulhof said well-wishers have donated more than $22,000 to help with the costs of replanting.
In some areas, the arboretum will replace the downed trees with the same species. In others, Schulhof said, "We see an opening to create plantings that speak to the current very important focus on water conservation," including California natives and Mediterranean species.
The garden's many fans have been waiting eagerly for it to reopen.
Dianne Flood, 69, a retired schoolteacher from Sierra Madre, has volunteered at the arboretum for 10 years, leading educational tours for schoolchildren. Flood said she loves taking youngsters through the park's prehistoric forest to Baldwin Lake, where they spot birds such as egrets, herons and cormorants.
In the aftermath of the storm, Flood had been anxious to check on her favorite trees, including the big eucalyptus in front of Queen Anne's Cottage. (It survived.)
"I was really upset, wondering about what it was like. It was frustrating not to be able to go and see," she said. She tried to satisfy her curiosity by looking at videos online and peeking through the fence but finally got a chance to survey the damage when she went in with an Audubon bird-watching group last weekend.
Flood said she plans to be waiting at the gate on Monday.
Meanwhile, county officials are trying to prove that the storm damage merits a federal disaster declaration. On Wednesday, the California Emergency Management Agency told the county that area cities had failed to meet the federal threshold for public damage — $50.3 million — to qualify for the declaration.
County officials are asking cities and school districts to report damage through the Los Angeles County Operational Area Response and Recovery System in hopes of obtaining the designation.
Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News, contributed to this report.