By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The recent series of storms, with their heavy rains and snow, knocked down trees and broke limbs throughout the mountain communities. They also created significant damage at the Heaps Peak Arboretum on Highway 18 between Skyforest and Heaps Peak Transfer Station.
Large trees were knocked down by the winds and many dropped huge limbs throughout the 30-acre nature preserve, creating a dangerous situation for visitors.
“The Arboretum is closed to the public until further notice,” said Carol Kinzel, president of the Rim of the World Interpretative Association (ROWIA). She notified her ROWIA members, “The destruction is way beyond our scope of care; hence, it is up to the Forest Service.”
ROWIA posted on their website, www.hparboretum.com, “VISITOR ALERT: Winter storms force closure of the Arboretum. End-of-year rain and snowstorms have brought badly needed moisture to the San Bernardino Mountains. But heavy snowfall in particular has felled branches and even whole trees on the Arboretum’s 30-acre site. Parts of the Sequoia Trail have been blocked by the debris, which also compromised access to the restrooms.”
The U.S. Forest Service on Jan. 3 did a complete inspection of the Arboretum, since it is on federal land, and immediately closed the site for any public access. They posted on their website: “In the Lake Arrowhead area, Heaps Peak Arboretum has been closed due to extensive damage (tree and branch falls) from the recent snow and windstorms. It will reopen, when staff members are able to clear the trail and mitigate any standing hazardous trees.”
After inspecting the storm-related damage, Kinzel told The Alpine Mountaineer, “It looked like some giants were bowling in the area, with toppled trees and huge branches strewn throughout the Arboretum, or maybe the trees were playing football against each other. Anyway, it is a big mess and dangerous, as there are branches that are broken but still in the treetops and they may still fall, seriously injuring someone. All the danger needs to be removed before we can safely allow the public to return.”
The Forest Service will spend the next couple weeks clearing up the biggest dangers and fallen trees, then ROWIA will come in and remove the smaller stuff. It may be a month or more before anyone can safely enter the Arboretum.
“We regret this situation, but safety requires the closure and, when completed, the Arboretum will again be a wonderful place to visit. Anyone who would like to assist in this cleanup, please email us through the website, www.hparboretum.com,” added Kinzel. ROWIA members are the volunteers who maintain the Heaps Peak Arboretum and operate the informational kiosk year-round, when the Arboretum is open.