What’s New at Deukmejian Park?

Deukmejian Wilderness Park reopened last week with an amazing array of improvements. The park had been closed, prudently I feel, during our recent storms as Dunsmore Canyon that runs up the center of the park is, to put it mildly, geologically active and has the potential to get very slippery, very quick.

Here’s a sampling of what’s new in “Duke” Park: Center stage is the beautiful old stone Le Mesnager Barn that’s currently being upgraded to modern seismic standards so that it can become a nature center, museum and community meeting space. Construction crews are on site creating an aesthetically pleasing inner framework for the unreinforced stone walls. Those familiar with the picturesque two-story native rock building have gotten used to the huge ugly black-steel I-beam that since the ‘80s has encircled the stone structure, in an effort to “hold the walls together.” I’m pleased and amazed to report that the beam is gone, leaving the barn looking like the authentic French-style country barn it was built as a hundred years ago.

A new trail that switchbacks up from the parking lot to the McFall Oak Tree makes a nice loop for those looking for just a short hike. The trail, which was built recently by professional trail builders and CCC workers, was laid out with mountain bikers in mind. It has features such as “whoop-de-doos,” banked turns and engineered jumps that are guaranteed to keep the Emergency Room at Verdugo Hills Hospital busy this summer. For those on foot, it features incredible views, cleverly built stone benches, and a beautiful new growth of wildflowers and sage. The first lupines of this year have already started to bloom.

The long Dunsmore Trail up the center of the canyon was regraded this winter by County Flood Control crews working on the crib dams higher up. It had been destroyed by last year’s rains and had been closed all last year, but is now a smooth dirt path. This trail takes you up along the stream to the still wooded section of Dunsmore Canyon and reconnects hikers to the Le Mesnager Loop Trail. This loop is a more challenging hike that overlooks the adjoining Cooks Canyon and offers spectacular views of the San Fernando Valley.

This winter has seen a tree planting effort in Dunsmore Canyon by local volunteers. The young trees are Big Cone Douglas Fir trees, the native tree of the San Gabriel Mountains that once flourished in thick forests above the Crescenta Valley before logging took them out in the late 1800s. About 50 trees have been planted so far, with more on the way. If you want to be involved, the third Saturday of each month from 8:00 a.m. to noon is a community workday, and you can come and help with planting and trail maintenance. The next work day is Feb. 19.

This spring will see a wide array of classes and guided hikes, including bird walks and wildflower hikes, and the previously mentioned vineyard and winemaking classes taking place this Saturday. Future plans are to create a community-driven native plant nursery, and restore the destroyed Rim of the Valley Trail that takes hikers up to Mount Lukens and into the Angeles National Forest. Grant funding is in the pipeline for new signage for the park, information kiosks, and park brochures.

Deukmejian Park, and all the parks in Glendale, have continued to grow and blossom during a tough economic time when park funding is usually the first item on the chopping block. This has been partially accomplished with the use of volunteers and through partnerships with community groups, such as the Stonebarn Vineyard Conservancy that I profiled in last week’s column. But an aggressive effort by the City to seek and gain grants from both private and government sources has given the parks a real boost.

The weather is great right now and the wildflowers of Duke Park are just beginning to open. Come on up and enjoy a beautiful day in a beautiful park.