Friends of the South Pasadena Nature Park

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A small piece of land along the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena was saved from development through the work of a group of determined citizens. In October of 2004 the three-plus acre nature park was opened to the public. In March of 2006 I started an informal group called the Friends of the Nature Park. Under the auspices of the city’s adopt-a-park program, we met about seven times a year in the park to pick up litter, remove invasive plants, and report problems to the city. In 2008 the stewardship work stopped being part of the adopt-a-park program, though we continue to meet one Saturday each month for most of the year.

Worker begins construction of entry way for renovation of the nature park (March 2004). Site is covered with invasive grasses and other weeds. Native shrubs and trees (Sambucus mexicanus, Quercus agrifolia, Platanus racemosa, Juglans californica) form backdrop for new plantings.

The park was carved from a typical degraded, disturbed, and weedy landscape. Although weeds were removed during the park renovation, without vigilance, the site is in danger of reverting to its former condition. Even with the work of volunteers and city staff, weeds and graffiti are a constant problem.

Workers construct water detention basin (2004) to reduce runoff from street above into Arroyo Seco channel.

Still, not all is hopeless. This year for the first time we are beginning to see the spread of native plants including datura (Datura wrightii), deerweed (Lotus scoparius), and buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).
For more information on the nature park, please check my other blog: Native By Design. Fremontia, the journal of the California Native Plant Society will also be publishing an article on citizen stewardship of the South Pasadena Nature Park in their next issue.

Attractive entry to park constructed with rounded arroyo boulders. Early plantings of Iris douglasiana and Heuchera cultivars did not survive the reflected heat, and neglect.

Scouts and parents clean up litter from Sycamore Circle.

The most hopeful signs are native seedlings struggling to take back the land. With perseverance the native plants, like this deerweed seedling (Lotus scoparius) will eventually get established in the open, central section of the park.

Mature shrubs and trees (Juglans californica, Quercus agrifolia, etc.) with a delightful clump of miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) make this a true nature park.

7 thoughts on “Friends of the South Pasadena Nature Park

  1. Very cool! I hope it all works out. It's so hard to get the natives to come back. We've had problems with natives regressing because the nitrogen in the exhaust from the cars encourages non-native grasses. Well, you probably know the constant battle.

  2. Yes I do know the constant battle. I try hard to focus on the improvements. I know that if we had not done the work we do, including getting the city to keep on top of maintenance, it would be much, much worse than it is. Just seeing the buckwheat spreading does my heart good! Thanks for commenting.

  3. lostlandscape (James)

    Weeds AND graffiti…I won't grouse so much since I have only one of those as a constant concern! The park is a lovely testament to the vision of the Friends and the hard work of all your volunteers. You've made a great green space, but it looks like you've as much to build community. Kudos!

  4. Thanks, James. The conditions we find in this park are shared by many others in the LA area. There is so little open space, especially near residential areas that don't border the foothills and mts., that we need to figure out how to make the most of what we have. It's an ongoing job but the benefits are real.

  5. Mary Delle

    I'm so glad you're part of this. It's a big job, but so important to our parks. Kudos!

  6. Thanks Mary Delle. I get as much from it as I give – no… more.

  7. Thanks for doing this Barbara! You are an inspiration!

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