Nature Preserve Remains Neglected

The secluded opening to Tujunga Pond

by David DeMullé

The Tujunga Nature Preserve has fallen into disrepair and abuse, but this natural haven can be brought back to its former glory.

The Tujunga Ponds Nature Preserve has miles of winding paths that offer a sense of peaceful existence with nature. Herons, crawdads, even minnows that can be seen skirting around the rocks and sunken tree branches.

Given to the L.A. Department of Parks & Recreation by CalTrans to replace the areas taken for the building of the 210 freeway, it has since been passed to L.A. County Fish & Game, and then the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy. But neither agency had the funds budgeted, and the preserve began to go into disrepair. It is the ideal place for horsemen and hikers to spend the day because of the large areas shaded by trees and the rippling flow of water.

Sadly, it has also become an area for honey-oil producers to set up their stills for the production of THC by-products. In the past years, there have been recurrent fires created by illegal operations as well as homeless people creating remote camps near the stream. A couple of years ago, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) discovered Robert Downs and two friends in their handmade hut while patrolling the Preserve. Downs’ living structure, which he built using tools from a home improvement store, had tables, shelves and four built-in bunk beds. Outside the home, was a rock patio, complete with a barbecue grill and tables. Deputies noted that the home even had fire extinguishers. It was completely camouflaged using military surplus items and paint. Downs lived there for more than a year in what could be considered an urban paradise. Unfortunately for Downs, it was also discovered that he was growing marijuana.

With the city in financial trouble, prospects for cleaning up the preserve and maintaining the trails are nil. “Every time the fence or gates are repaired,” said Bill Shannon of Sunland, “they are torn down.

It is estimated that it would take between $40,000 to $50,000 to maintain and patrol the preserve.

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