Nature Park News

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Mom and daughter weeding in the park in May. Penstemons, bush sunflowers, and blue elderberries are all blooming during this wet springtime

Starting Our 18th Year

Friends of South Pasadena Nature Park began in March of 2006, so we have been working in the park for more than 17 years! Wow! It is important sometimes to step back and take a look at the big picture. What do we have to show for all of the time and effort of so many volunteers? Below are pictures taken roughly from the same location, but separated by 15 years. What was once a field of weeds followed by mountains of mulch, has now become a tapestry of coastal sage scrub. This is what success in the Nature Park looks like.

Nature Park in 2021, tapestry of coastal sage scrub
Nature Park in 2021, tapestry of coastal sage scrub
Piles of mulch in park in 2006
Roughly the same location as above was once covered with piles of mulch (2006)

Looking Forward

There is much yet to do and I am excited to continue the projects that we began earlier, along with starting a few new ones. As always, we will remove invasives, tend the land, and introduce new plants to increase diversity and enrich relationships. We will extend the Demonstration Garden and install new educational signage. We are also working with the city to improve the park’s visibility with prominent entrance signs.

This year we hope to welcome a couple of new benches into the park with the help of the Boy Scouts. We will also continue to work with South Pasadena Beautiful on new projects and events including a Garden Tour during the spring.

Volunteers installing the Demonstration Garden in January 2023
Volunteers installing the Demonstration Garden in January 2023
Clarkias and other wildflowers brighten the Demonstration Garden in June 2023
Clarkias and other wildflowers brighten the Demonstration Garden in June 2023

Looking Further into the Future

With the help of volunteers from Bank of America and many others, we will begin to convert the weedy area adjacent to the golf course driving range into a healthy and refreshing woodland of oaks, walnuts, sycamores and other shrubs and perennials. The process begins with the removal of invasive weeds. We will also spread a thick layer of wood chips to prepare for planting in the winter of 2024/25.

A coyote walks in front of a stand of tree-of-life (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive weed. We hope to convert this area into an oak/walnut/sycamore woodland. A swale or dry stream bed running through the new woodland would improve infiltration of urban runoff.

A Micro Forest in the Nature Park?

One idea that we are considering is to put in a micro forest. This method was developed for temperate climates by the Japanese botanist and ecologist, Akira Miyawaki. The idea is to densely plant trees and other local natives to accelerate the development of a mature forest. 

Katherine Pakradouni, with support from the Hancock Park Garden Club, installed a micro forest in Griffith Park in the spring of 2021 (see LA Times article for more information). She modified the Miyawaki method to take into account our dry summer climate and the resulting plant communities dominated by shrubs.

However, the jury is out regarding whether this technique is effective in the long term, and it is even more uncertain whether it is appropriate in dry regions. (See Reporterre article, Forests in the city? The Miyawaki method is not the miracle solution, use Google translate for English).

Nonetheless, we have found that in the Nature Park it is easier to control invasive weeds in areas where we plant more densely. I do not think that the Miyawaki method is a panacea, but it is important to experiment with different techniques to determine how best to restore healthy Southern California habitat. It will be exciting to plant and monitor a small, modified micro forest so that we can add to the experiences of those working throughout the world to heal damaged urban lands. 

September Volunteer Day

In preparation for our new projects, we will continue to move rocks and spread mulch near the bicycle and pedestrian path. And, as usual, we will remove weeds and beautify the park.

Masks and keeping a safe distance apart are recommended. Having gotten used to wearing a mask for covid, I now wear one when working in my home garden and at the park since it protects me from dust and pollen. Give it a try.

Dates are tentative, so please confirm on Facebook,, or email.
Where: 100 block of Pasadena Avenue in So Pasadena, east of York Street Bridge
When: 09/16/23; 9 am – noon

Nature Park volunteers should:

  • Wear sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
  • Bring plenty of water
  • Bring gardening gloves and tools (weeders, trowels, whatever you use in your own garden), there are extra tools and gloves for those who need them
  • Wear comfortable work clothes, including work shoes (sneakers or boots) and long pants
  • Bring binoculars for birdwatching (optional)

Children must be under adult supervision at all times. There is poison oak in the park that we will point out before starting.

The South Pas Nature Park is a four-acre habitat park along the Arroyo Seco. The entrance, marked by a small plaque on an attractive river rock wall, is in the 100 block of Pasadena Avenue in South Pasadena, east of the York Street Bridge. There is plenty of on-street parking on Pasadena Avenue.

Upcoming Cleanups

We are planning to hold our regular park cleanups on the following Saturdays (9am – noon):

  • SEPTEMBER 16, 2023 (note date correction, 9/16, Saturday)
  • OCTOBER 21, 2023
  • DECEMBER 16, 2023
  • JANUARY 20, 2024
  • FEBRUARY 17, 2024
  • MARCH 16, 2024
  • APRIL 20, 2024
  • MAY 18, 2024
  • JUNE 15, 2024

(Dates are tentative, please confirm on, or email.)


If you would like to help grow our nature park but prefer not to get into the dirt, you can donate through South Pasadena Beautiful. Be sure to include a note specifying that the donation be applied to the Nature Park.