By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
Described by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino as “the little conservancy that does,” the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy had reason to celebrate on Saturday. The organization was joined by more than 100 people who came to celebrate the official opening of the Rosemont Preserve.
The 7.75-acre parcel sits atop Rosemont Avenue and was once slated for development by then-owner Terry Villanueva. Villanueva, whose family has been part of the community for over 20 years, decided to sell the property to the conservancy after learning of the community’s concern over possible development.
On Saturday, John Howell, executive director of the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy, greeted guests, inviting them on a docent-led tour.
“The tours give people a chance to experience the preserve,” Howell said. “For many, this is the first time they’ve seen [the property.] They can really appreciate the habitat.”
Also on hand was Roger Klemm, a naturalist who oversaw the removal of some of the invasive plants, including castor bean which he called an “opportunistic plant” that needs to be bagged before being removed in order to reduce its spread.
Klemm also spoke on the condition of the land nearly three years after the Station Fire.
“There’s no Poodle-dog bush up there,” Klemm said, which might not necessarily be a good thing. Poodle-dog bush sprouts up typically after a fire and can cause severe irritation if touched, even raising blisters that can last as long as two weeks.
“The Poodle-dog bush actually protects the young conifers (trees),” he explained. “I didn’t see any Poodle-dog bush, but I also didn’t see any conifers.”
Klemm noted that there is a lot of work to be done in the preserve.
“I’m passionate about protecting the land and part of that is removing what doesn’t belong,” he said. “[Saturday] was just the first volley in the Rosemont weed war.”
In his comments to the crowd later in the morning, Howell spotlighted the many supporters over the months who helped the project. One group was the Green Wishes, three Mountain Avenue Elementary School students – Allysen Bell, Jessica Carp and Sara Chin – who designed and sold T-shirts promoting the Rosemont Preserve project. Proceeds from T-shirt sales totaled about $1,400 and were given to the conservancy.
Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony was Assemblyman Anthony Portantino who supported the acquisition in its early days by donating $500 toward the $100,000 that the community needed to raise.
“This is a good community effort,” Portantino said of the acquisition. “Good things come together when people work together.”
L.A. Supervisor Michael Antonovich presented the conservancy with a certificate commending the organization for its hard work. He invited community leaders Steve Pierce and Paul Rabinov, who were instrumental in moving the project along, to the front of the seating area. He also asked CV Town Councilmember Robert Thomas and the Green Wishes girls to gather for photos.
Though the property has already been purchased, the conservancy is still seeking input from the community regarding the future of the land.
Accessibility to the preserve was something heard more than once.
“I’m happy because hopefully it’ll be another access [for hiking] for La Crescenta,” said Jerry Burnham, who has lived in La Crescenta since 1977. “The only other option is Deukmejian [Wilderness Park].”
The property borders an L.A. County flood channel and private property. Parking issues and worries about trash have made some nearby residents cautious in endorsing the preserve.
“We need to be sensitive to what nearby residents want,” said Klemm.
Though raising the $425,000 for the purchase of the property was a substantial hurdle, it is certainly not the last. Frank Simpson is a landscape educator who outlined the future of the property and how to manage it for future generations.
“There’s stuff we know that needs to be done immediately,” Simpson said. He presented an overview of a multi-part stewardship plan including understanding the challenges of the property.
But on Saturday, enjoying cake under the sun and oaks of the Rosemont Preserve, it was a day of celebration – celebrating the partnership between the community and the conservancy.
At the end of the presentations, resident Mike Veselich, after offering the opportunity to join the Rosemont Society, invited guests to sit, listen and experience the beauty and serenity of the property.
“We have embarked on an exciting venture with our community,” he said.