It's Hard Being A Tree In LA Right Now. Here's What The City Is Doing To Save Them

Hikers take a break at the iconic Vista Hermosa Park overlook in West LA. (Photo by Becca Murray/LAist)

Los Angeles recently received a $1.3 million grant from Cal Fire to count and care for its urban forest.

"A combination of disease, pests, drought, water restrictions has created a perfect storm," said Leon Boroditsky, a tree surgeon specialist with the City of Los Angeles' Recreation and Parks department. "It's not a great time to be a tree."

Tens of thousands of trees are under the care of the city, and most of the grant will go towards creating an inventory of them.

"If you don't know what you have, you don't know how to manage it and a complete inventory is going to give us the ability to know what type of trees we have, what condition they're in," Boroditsky said.

(Courtesy nielsfrenzen via Flickr)

For the skilled arborists the city plans to hire, it will only take a few minutes to measure each tree and record its condition. But with so many trees to check up on, it'll still be a big job.

At this point the city doesn't actually know how many trees it even has, Boroditsky said. The current records are incomplete but they include over 50,000.

The plan is to update that data, which is already four years old and catalogue the areas that haven't yet been looked at, he said. Large parks with lots of wilderness like Griffith and Elysian haven't been studied because their size and tree density poses a challenge.

Once all the data is collected, Parks officials can better advocate for funds and resources to help the trees and give the people of L.A. better parks to visit.

"Most Angelenos don't have green space," Boroditsky said. "They live in apartments and their only access to green space are the parks."

The inventory will also help the city prepare for and prevent fires in parks, like the brush fire that burned 25 acres of Griffith Park and threatened the Griffith Observatory last month.

Knowing the potential fuel for fires that exists in L.A.'s urban forest will give the parks department the tools to work with fire agencies to plan ahead and protect the city from facing more fires like that in the future.

The Cal Fire grant will also fund the planting of 680 trees in the city. Boroditsky said neighborhoods that currently lack greenery — like Wilmington, South Central and North Hollywood — will be the priority. The trees will also help alleviate pollution along the 5, 170 and 110 freeways, he added.

In addition, Boroditsky said he's teaming up with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to visit some underserved communities and give young people a deeper understanding about the work it takes to count and care for park trees.