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LA Arboretum re-opens doors after windstorm

December 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
It's one of the most beautiful spots in Southern California. On Monday, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden reopened its doors after a devastating windstorm toppled trees.

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The arboretum lost 235 of its trees when hurricane-force winds swept through on the night of Nov. 30.

"You have to imagine that somebody with very large hands came down and picked it all up, squeezed it, crumbled it, and threw it back on the ground. It was quite mind boggling," said Superintendent Timothy Phillips.

Casualties included a 140-year-old gum tree and a South American ear pod tree - it's heavy branches now broken and collapsed.

"It's sad to see because you know that's a whole civilization in there in those rings of those trees," said visitor Kathleen Ellison.

After weeks of cleaning up the mess, the arboretum is finally back open to the public. But caution tape still surrounds the destroyed trees.

"I think they've done an awfully good job cleaning this up," said visitor Richard Bensen. "It's amazing and it would be nice to come back in 40, 50 years and see what they're going to do."

All of the debris that has flown around the arboretum earlier this month has been moved, covering a 17,000-square-foot open field.

"You'll see these mulch piles are sort of scattered all over the place," said Phillips. "And that's chip that was branches and trees and debris that was chipped on site, because we just don't have enough room to place it."

And what isn't ground up may be given to wood workers and turned into furniture or bowls.

As for the missing trees, it will be a challenge to replace those shaded canopies. But it's well worth the wait.

"We're going to be seeking collection material from as small as seed, and growing it on," said Phillips. "Reshaping the arboretum doesn't happen overnight, it took quite a few years to get to this point. So we are not in any hurry."

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