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Elysian Park Has Turned Into a Dry, Dangerous 'Zombie Forest'

At nearly 130 years old, Elysian Park is one of Los Angeles's largest and most famous parks, but it's now facing a complex web of problems that are putting its future in jeopardy. The same drought that's killing off trees across LA is hitting Elysian Park hard, compounded by the fact that the park's irrigation system, which long "sustained" the groves of trees and vegetation, is broken; on top of the thirst, the weakened trees are also being hit by hungry pests. The overall effect is that Elysian is now "a zombie forest of angular dead twigs." But there is a plan that could possibly help the park, or at least usher it into a new, more sustainable stage of its life, says the LA Times. Unfortunately, there's no real timeline or, more importantly, funding to put that plan into effect.

A 2006 "master plan" suggested that the many non-native trees and species in the park—holdovers from Elysian's earliest years—be allowed to die off, and that the city then "replant the slopes with saplings of oak and walnut, gradually restoring the hillsides to the natural, and sustainable, ecosystem that Gaspar de Portola witnessed when he camped beside the Los Angeles River in 1769." That sounds amazing, and much more eco-friendly in the long term. But there's no schedule for putting it into effect, the Times says. Worse still, there's no money to even remove the "hundreds" of dead or nearly dead trees accumulating in the park.

The 2006 study that preceded the master plan indicated that Elysian Park was in trouble even before the punishing years of drought that have recently struck California. That old plan was never adopted, though, and a Rec and Parks official blames the Great Recession.

Rec and Parks officials couldn't offer up much information on any steps now being taken or that will be taken to help revive the park, but delaying action at the public space creates a couple potential powder kegs. Two independent experts who toured the park are worried that the situation at Elysian is creating two "emergencies": with all those dead trees around, there is, of course, a growing fire hazard on park grounds. (An Echo Park local describes the park as "just really a big pile of kindling right now.") Meanwhile, there's also the threat of branches from dead and dying trees falling on park visitors. "I appreciate that's a matter of budget, but there are some safety factors there that are significant. That's something the city needs to look at," says a "tree specialist certified in risk assessment by the International Society of Arboriculture."
· Recovery plan lies dormant as Elysian Park's exotic trees die off [LAT]
· LA's Trees Are Dying Off Faster Because of the Drought [Curbed LA]