February Riverwalk workday

Grasses and weeds were removed from the Glendale Riverwalk trail in Glendale on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. Volunteers fanned out throughout the area to help maintain the recreational area. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 8, 2014)

Yvonne Burch-Hartley, 63, likes coming to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk to go birding — observing the different species in their natural habitat.

While she usually sees more birds during spring and summer, she did spot what she thought was a Greater Yellowlegs on Saturday morning, while volunteering for the Riverwalk Workday, a day of weeding to help with the recreational area’s upkeep.

Burch-Hartley was one of about five volunteers who came out for the workday organized by the Trails and Open Space program, overseen by the city and sponsored by the Glendale Parks and Open Space Foundation.

“It just feels good to be able to maintain a place that is such a beautiful green space in our community,” she said.

The program’s workdays focus on a different recreational area in the city each weekend, with the second Saturday of every month dedicated to the Riverwalk, according to John Pearson, a retired city employee who served as the project manager of the Riverwalk. He now acts as volunteer coordinator for the workdays, guiding and training volunteers.

At this month’s Riverwalk workday, volunteers were tasked with weeding dandelions, fountain grass and mule fat from the half-mile area, which makes up phase 1 of the Riverwalk, a $2.1-million project that includes horse facilities, park areas and a half-mile trail, completed in December 2012.

Phase 2, which involves extending the Riverwalk another half-mile, is currently in the design phase with some preliminary groundwork started, while phase 3 — building a bridge to connect the Riverwalk to the Los Angeles Bike Path — is still in need of additional funding.

Pearson said the number of volunteers can vary from five to 30 people, but due to rain earlier in the week, the turnout that day was small.

Still, the volunteer program is a big help in light of budget cuts that disbanded the city’s park naturalists program in June 2011, according to Marc Stirdivant, a senior administrative analyst for the city’s Community Services and Parks Department.

“Frankly, there’s more than our park maintenance staff can take care of so we’re here to supplement the work they do,” he said. “We get a half-dozen or a dozen people out here for four hours and basically apply 40 to 50 man hours of work on to the Riverwalk, and we can do a lot of good in terms of removing the weeds and non-native grasses and the things we don’t want to have growing here, and give an opportunity for things we do want growing here to take hold.”

Saturday’s volunteers included a couple of high school students working for community service hours, as well as La Crescenta resident Anne McNeill, who has taken part in workdays at the Riverwalk and at Deukmejian Wilderness Park.

“Doing this kind of work — helping out as a volunteer — really sort of reinforces this sense of belonging, you know, of its being kind of your park,” McNeill, 71, said. “It’s satisfying, you kind of feel like you’re a co-owner of such great spaces.”

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Follow Sameea Kamal on Twitter: @SameeaKamal.

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