And even as the program kicks off, city officials are already devising a plan to expand the patrol's reach via a new river unit.
The river patrol would be an option for those who may not be able to handle the rigor associated with the mountainous landscapes of the trail unit. The skills test for the branch required hikers to climb six miles of trails along the Verdugo Mountains and back in less than 2 1/2 hours, but some couldn't meet the rigorous qualifications, said Marc Stirdivant, senior administrative analyst.
“We might have overlooked some people who were really interested in giving back to the community, who love the outdoors and who would want to get out and do this kind of patrol, but for whom hiking to the top of the Verdugos or mountain biking across the San Rafaels might be more than they want to take on,” he said.
That's where the river unit comes in. The city is looking for volunteers to patrol the recently unveiled Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, a 1.5-mile trail and park area along the Los Angeles River. The river unit could also walk and bike around the lowland areas of Brand and Deukmejian Wilderness parks.
City officials are looking for about 20 volunteers in order to get the river unit up and running in about six weeks. In time, the patrol group for the mountainous trails may expand as well.
About 5,000 acres of parkland and open space in Glendale were left unattended by permanent staff after the city laid off its park naturalists due to budget cuts more than a year ago.
The volunteers won't be doing everything the naturalists once did — such as leading campfires and interpretive hikes — but they will be there to report on trail conditions, assist in emergencies and advise parkgoers on which trails to use.
“In today's economy, we need many more volunteers,” said Bob Thompson, a patrol member.
Those interested in volunteering for the river unit may call (818) 548-2000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.