David McNew/Getty Images
File photo: A charred landscape is left in the wake of the 250 square mile Station fire in the San Gabriel Mountains on September 16, 2009 in the Angeles National Forest, northeast of Los Angeles, California.
This week, the U.S. Forest Service reopened hiking trails and campgrounds scattered throughout 98,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest. They’ve been closed for more than a year and a half since the Station Fire.
Pasadena resident Bruce Wright has tromped around the Angeles National Forest for nearly 40 years. Until the Station Fire, he fished in Big Tujunga Canyon. At a meeting late last month with fire officials, Wright asked them about when he could go back to his favorite spots.
“The area up Alder Creek, which is one of the places I like to go, it’s a place you can go without an established trail and have a little solitude. It didn’t seem to be affected at all from what I could see from the road," he said.
But the forest’s deputy supervisor, Marty Dumpis, says protecting the forest's ecological health required the closures.
“I know it’s been a long wait, but there’s a lot more issues than allowing people to come back in that we do have to deal with [such as] invasive species. There’s been a lot of damage,” Dumpis says.
Forest Service biologist Lisa Northrop says more than two dozen non-native plants have invaded burn areas. Northrop says the Forest Service and volunteers are working to remove scotchbroom, mustard, yellow star thistle and other grasses.
“Humans and animals and all different sorts of things cause invasive species to move in to recently burned areas. To the extent you can keep those species from becoming established, you’re much more likely to have ecological recovery occur.”
And now that the recovery has made enough progress, the Forest Service has opened trails and campgrounds in the north, south and east part of the park. The Forest Service says protecting public safety and helping the forest recover are two reasons why the other half of the Station Fire’s burn area remains closed. It’s welcome news for most hikers, but it doesn’t help Pasadena’s Bruce Wright. The 70-year-old left his job at Cal State Fullerton a few years ago and moved with his wife, Marilee, to be closer to the forest.
“My hope was that I’d spend most days walking around in the forest.”
Places near his home aren’t open, though.
“I’m not as angry as somebody who had their house burn down. But I’m angry that I can’t go to the forest anymore. It used to be that I could, within an hour of my house, be walking along a nice streambed or along a trail, but now I have to go a substantially greater distance to do that.”
The locations of the reopened trails are plotted below.
View Angeles National Forest Reopens About Half of Closed Areas in a larger map