Hikers visit an oak tree saved by firefighters during the massive Station fire. (Raul Roa/News-Press)

Hikers visit an oak tree saved by firefighters during the massive Station fire. (Raul Roa/News-Press)

In recent months, the entrance to the city's Deukmejian Wilderness Park has been blocked to the public after its hillsides were scorched during the Station fire and filled with mud and debris during the ensuing winter storms.

On Saturday, the ever-present "park closed" barrier was covered with a handwritten sign reading "open."

City Councilwoman Laura Friedman said the sign was a welcome image to the many residents who have anxiously awaited the reopening of the park, which saw nearly all of its 709 acres blackened during the Station fire.

"I don't think any of us are ever going to forget the terror of the Station fire . . . But today I think that horror is supplanted by this new image," Friedman said to a crowd of city officials and residents who gathered Saturday morning for an official "Grand Re-opening" ceremony.

While much of the park and its wilderness trails will remain closed to the public as city officials and volunteers continue recovery efforts, Saturday's ceremony marked the opening of the park's lower portion.

More than 100 residents — many with children and dogs in tow — came out to the wilderness park, which they said serves as an extended backyard for many in the community.

"We used to come here all the time to hike," said Montrose resident Margaret Metz. "We are so excited it's open again."

Since the Station fire, city officials and more than 300 volunteers have dedicated thousands of hours to recovery efforts.

"When people ask what makes the Crescenta Valley special, it's how we respond when there are catastrophes," said City Councilman and Crescenta Valley native John Drayman.

During the winter months, volunteers laid thousands of sandbags and city officials placed concrete barriers, called K-rails, to protect the park from the mud and debris that rushed down the barren hillsides.

In recent weeks, volunteers have spread out across the hillsides to remove leafy castor bean and other nonnative plants that had taken root after the fire.

On Saturdaycity officials and residents took a short hike up one of the park's lower trails to a historic oak tree that local firefighters saved. City officials dedicated the tree to retiring Assistant City Manager Bob McFall, a nature enthusiast who urged firefighters to protect the tree.

While the hillsides were still dotted with the blackened carcasses of burnt trees, those in attendance marveled at the wildlife that had returned.

Yellow mustard and other native plants already filled the previously blackened hillsides with bright colors.

"You can already see this incredible regrowth," Friedman said.