4235 Monterey Road
AREA 3 - URBAN WILDERNESS PRESERVATION AREA
The distinguishing feature of the Urban Wilderness is the presence of extensive stands of southern California black walnut. Depending on aspect to the sun, the walnut trees form an open, walnut woodland of scattered individuals among annual grassland on southfacing slopes, to dense tree cover forming walnut forest on the north-facing slopes, where more moisture is available. As elsewhere in the park, additional shrub and tree species of these woodlands and forest include lemonadeberry, toyon, blue elderberry, and coast live oak. Golden currant is occasionally encountered, and heart-leaf penstemon, and Fuchsiaflowered gooseberry are rare shrubs of the understory.
One occurrence of false indigo, the foodplant of the official butterfly of the state of California, the California dogface butterfly is known from the park. Other relatively rare occurrences of plants include fleabane aster, California-Fuchsia, and western pellitory. Because southern California black walnut is a deciduous species, sunlight is available in the understory of these woodlands and forest during the winter, when soils are wet, and growth of grasses and forbs is most rapid. Consequently, the understory is enriched by a number of herbaceous plants, which provide food and cover for wildlife. The prevalent herbs are aliens, including common chickweed, annual bedstraw, horehound, short-pod mustard, and several species of ubiquitous annual grasses.
Native plants are also present, especially the pleasantly fragrant California everlasting, and cliff-aster. Blue fiesta flower, and miner's-lettuce are occasionally encountered. Native grasses can also be found including coast melic, California brome, and rarely, giant wildrye or purple needlegrass. Poison-oak, which is also deciduous, wild cucumber, and chaparral honeysuckle are among common vine-like species in the understory.
In addition to walnut woodland and forest, annual grassland dominates substantial portions of the Urban Wilderness, especially on south-facing slopes. Here, an assemblage of ubiquitous alien annual grasses frequently prevail, including ripgut brome, red brome, soft-chess, slender wild oat, foxtail barley, and rat-tail fescue. These areas can also be locally dominated by forbs, especially black mustard and various alien, thistle-like plants including tocalote, milk-thistle, bull thistle, common and prickly sow-thistles, Russianthistle, and bristly ox-tongue. Weedy native herbs such as horseweed and wand-chicory are relatively common. Although usually associated with coastal sage scrub, the only known occurrence of the native shrub, California encelia is found on steep south-facing slopes in the western drainage. Although alien, tree tobacco is common on certain southfacing slopes, providing for numerous hummingbirds.
Among the rarest plant communities in the park, coastal sage scrub is with the one exception described in Area 1, restricted to northern and western margins of the Urban Wilderness. In particular, a south-facing slope at the northerly entrance supports a stand of black sage, California buckwheat, coastal sagebrush, California brickellbush deerweed, and several species of plants not found elsewhere, including caterpillar and sticky phacelias, prickly pear, chaparral morning-glory, sawtooth goldenbush, and possibly also foothill needlegrass.
To the immediate west of the north entrance is an unusual area of coastal sage scrub with scattered shrubs of coastal sagebrush, coyote brush, blue elderberry, and other uncommon species such as amole. Bordering this latter area on the north is an area with evidently moist subsoils, which supports an impenetrable thicket of California rose. This is the only known (extant) location of the noxious vine, bladder flower at the park. Rather unusual is the occurrence of coastal sage scrub on a steep, north-facing slope to the east of the northern entrance. Here, bush monkeyflower, narrow-leaf bedstraw, and goldenyarrow are dominant, and these species are not known from any other locations in the park. This is also the site of an infestation of red valerian. Other pockets of coastal sagebrush along the western margin are notable as the only locations of species including coastal isocoma, Palmer's goldenbush, and rare occurrences of white everlasting, California-Fuchsia, and long-stemmed buckwheat.
Compared to other areas of the park, the large size, natural condition, and relatively low levels of human disturbance in the Urban Wilderness provide the best possible of the existing conditions for wildlife at Debs Park. Furthermore, Arroyo Seco, although channelized and concrete-lined, provides some degree of connectivity of Debs Park to natural areas of the upper watershed located in the San Gabriel Mountains. As a result, the Urban Wilderness area is expected to support the greatest array of wildlife of any of the areas. In addition, observations by Mr. Kimball Garrett, ornithologist with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and Mr. Dan Cooper of National Audubon reveals that red-shouldered hawk nest in the park here, and possibly even Cooper's hawk and red-tailed hawk. Also confirmed nesting birds are Band-tailed pigeon, mourning dove, Anna's hummingbird, western scrub-jay, ash-throated flycatcher, bushtit, BewickÕs wren, American robin, black-headed grosbeak, and spotted and California towhees. Others reported likely to breed include black-chinned, Costa's and Allen's hummingbirds, black phoebe, western screech-owl, great horned owl California thrasher, hooded and BullockÕs orioles, lesser and Lawrence's goldfinches, and house sparrow.
Observations of other native wildlife species at the park are rather sparse, among confirmed sightings are coyote (D. Cooper), bottaÕs pocket gopher, broad-handed mole (C. Wishner, Envicom Corporation), desert cottontail, and fox squirrel. The presence of a number of species of bats, and small rodents among shrews, pocket mice, kangaroo rats, harvest mouse, white-footed mice, and woodrats might reasonably be anticipated.
Similarly, observations of amphibians and reptiles are very sparse, and only the western fence lizard is commonly observed. Mr. Dan Cooper, National Audubon, has observed a handful of butterfly species at the park in 1999. These include cabbage white, fiery skipper, skipper (undetermined), western checkered skipper, western tiger swallowtail, marine blue, and gulf fritillary. Ms. Melanie Ingalls, National Audubon observed sara orange-tip in March 1999.
Area 3 Land Use Recommendations:
Urban Wilderness is the area of the park where visitors step lightly, entering primarily on foot. Visitors will access the area through a series of signed gateways that emphasize and express the distinct quality of the park's woodlands and shrub covered hills. Each gateway into the urban wilderness area will provide an introduction to this resource. Signs will gently remind people to protect the natural resources and to help wildlife by observing and not interfering with their activities.
To implement this vision the following land use design guidelines will apply:
To provide a reliable source for irrigation and fire-fighting water, a small reservoir was constructed in one of the Park's highest hilltop areas. The reservoir lies wholly within the Urban Wilderness, but it is a developed area including a prominent hill surrounded by exotic trees and shrubs, and conjoined with a lawn area and viewpoint. The margin of the lake is virtually devoid of vegetation, as is also the lake, as park maintenance staff periodically remove algae and vegetation. The soil is compacted, and the borders of the reservoir are sprayed regularly to prohibit vegetation growth. Graffiti covers the trees and benches surrounding the reservoir. Despite its appearance, the reservoir area receives substantial use for picnicking, fishing (presumably catfish), and the quite prevalent activity of allowing dogs to play and retrieve objects from the lake. In addition, below the reservoir to the north is the "Cascades," an artificial, concrete-rock waterfall that is no longer in operation. Currently, the reservoir does not support a full complement of wildlife and vegetation, as its primary purpose is to provide irrigation water.
Undoubtedly, the local wildlife utilizes the existing reservoir extensively as a source of water. Other potential inhabitants of the lake including fishes and amphibians are unknown. Only one notable plant species is found associated with the lake, a pondweed, tentatively determined to be sago pondweed.
In the future, with the construction of a new water pressure system, this area can be re-created as viable aquatic habitat. The vision for the reservoir is to create an area with wetland plants that support a wide variety of wildlife, from insects to birds (methods for converting the reservoir into a wetland are discussed in the habitat management plan). The new pond would also serve as the focus for wildlife and nature interpretive opportunities. Specific recommendations include:
Actions to be Discouraged