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Conservancy Setting Out To Restore Charred Landscape

An effort to restore the native plants and trees turned to ash during the Colby Fire is underway.

Image from the Glendora Community Conservancy Facebook page.
Image from the Glendora Community Conservancy Facebook page.
Operation Phoenix: it is a fitting analogy to the recovery effort in the works to restore the 350 acres of  landscape owned by two local conservancy groups that was burned away by the Colby Fire.

With an ambitious goal to help heal the mountainside, the Glendora Community Conservancy and the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy will work to replant at least 300 native plants and trees to restore the affected watershed properties in the San Gabriel Mountains Foothill Corridor. The event is scheduled for Saturday, February 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. along the Colby Trail.

The upcoming event is part of a project that began with an oak tree planting effort in Oct. 2013. While it may restore the natural beauty now gone, Project Phoenix serves a far more vital function for the foothill cities.

The affected areas contain key watershed properties and in the event of substantial rainfall, the foothills could erode and cause landslides, said Ann Croissant, president of the Glendora Community Conservancy.

"The rains won't go into the ground, they will sheet off, because there is no plant material there to catch the rain and hold it. This is a huge loss to our water supply," Croissant said. "Even in a drought we may have a sudden rainstorm spring up and lose everything."

The fire-flood cycle was apparent in 1969 when massive flooding, caused by a 23,000-acre fire just a year prior, poured mud and debris into many Glendora homes at the base of the foothills.

Areas hit hard by the Colby Fire include the Colby Trail Watershed property, Upper Colby Trail/Glendora Watershed property, Easley Canyon/North Watershed property and the Vasquez Rancho/East Watershed property.

Some of the fortunate areas spared from destruction are the nature center and the Children's Forest Project and its hundreds of oak trees planted last October. The endangered Brodiaea was largely spared as well from the Colby Fire, Croissant said, but unless precipitation comes, the Brodiaea cannot fully flourish.

With the level of destruction caused by the Colby Fire, it could be as long as a decade, even longer, before a positive response is seen in the landscape, Croissant said.

To restore the burned areas will take tremendous work.

"This work is hard and tough. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of money for us to really recover in a way that we'll really be the pride of the foothills. Right now our pride has sunk because of this fire," Croissant said.

Work will likely be conducted every few months, with a coordinated, scientific approach to ensure the native plants and nutrient-rich soil, courtesy of the Colby Fire, will not be disturbed.

Formed in 1991, the non-profit Glendora Community Conservancy seeks to preserve the natural history of the area through open space acquisition, preservation and protection. The San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy, formed in 1997, is a separate entity that works in conjunction with the GCC and helps give the area a regional voice.

The conservancy is in needs of donations, but is in dire need of volunteers to undertake the grueling workload ahead, Croissant said.

Those interested in donating money, or manpower, can contact organizers through the Glendora Community Conservancy website.

For more information, call (626) 857-0800.

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