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Elysian Park Is A 'Zombie Forest' Of Dying Trees Ready To Burst Into Flames

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Elysian Park is dying. Founded in 1886, the city's oldest park is now a mausoleum to the dying exotic trees planted there at the turn of the 20th century—dropping branches onto visitors and becoming an enormous fire hazard.Although Elysian Park once had an irrigation system that helped to sustain the eucalyptus, deodar cedar and Mexican palms, it is now mostly broken and the drought and pests only made things worse. A master plan from June of 2006 envisioned a future where native, drought-tolerant vegetation such as walnuts, live oaks, and sagebrush would reclaim the hillsides. Of course, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has yet to see any action on that plan, and for now the park is "slowly becoming a zombie forest of angular dead twigs silhouetted against blue sky and the downtown skyline," according to the L.A. Times.

"You have a lot of dead trees," Donald R. Hodel, an environmental horticulturist for the University of California Cooperative Extension told the Times. "They probably have to be removed. I'm not sure they could be left. It would probably be a big fire hazard."

"Someday somebody is going to drop a match or a cigarette and the whole thing will explode," Michael O'Brien, a retired Planning Department landscape architect and Echo Park resident, told the Times. "It's just really a big pile of kindling right now."

On top of the fire hazard, the trees are also dropping large branches or entirely falling throughout of the park—some of them near places where visitors congregate.

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It comes down to a matter of resources, and the situation in Elysian Park has spread the Department of Recreation and Parks too thin. The park's team of tree specialists is spread too thin to cover all 600 acres, and piles of branches are often left on the ground for days before crews can clear them away. For now, people will just have to look up the next time they visit Elysian Park.

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