District plans for King James Court restoration

Renovations intend to make area’s habitat ‘more resilient and beautiful’

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Among the acres of land burned by the Woolsey Fire was the area by King James Court in Oak Park known as the China Flat Trailhead. Recently, the Oak Park Unified School District has proposed rough draft plans to restore the land’s habitat by replanting native trees and reintegrating wildlife. This initiative is currently waiting for board approval.

The restoration of King James Court — approximately 6.3 acres of land — will be a community-wide effort. Oak Park students, families and residents will have the opportunity to participate in assisting these plans.

“The project involves drone and aerial mapping and ground plotting, litter removal, planting of native oaks and other plants, possible native grass seeding in certain areas, installation of wildlife monitoring cameras and the installation of interpretive signs,” Superintendent Tony Knight wrote to the Talon.

Students from Oak Park High School’s AP Environmental Science class, along with California State University Channel Islands, will also be directly involved in the initial stages of the operation.

Other schools in the district encounter hands-on learning experiences like this.

“There’s also the fifth grade Catalina trip where students are introduced to as close as an untouched environment, like we have in our area,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jay Greenlinger said. “They get that experience of being on the land and in the ocean in a rugged place.”

After the recent California wildfires and mudslides, Greenlinger emphasized the importance of the community having a “restorative experience” post-trauma.

“Identifying the chance not just to build the science and learning opportunity, but also to build resilience in our community is an important piece,” Greenlinger said.

Although the initiative has not yet begun, a rough draft of the step-by-step plan has been outlined.

“We have met with Dr. Sean Anderson, Professor of Environmental Science at [California State, Channel Islands] and he would like to assist us with this project and involve his students as well,” Knight wrote.

First, the school district will purchase a number of cameras to oversee wildlife, then aerial drones will be sent out for topographical mapping to document vegetation and erosion. The images and data collected by the district will be sent to California State University Channel Islands for review and analysis. A site clean-up event will take place to clear the debris and prepare for tree replantation. Finally, an interpretive kiosk will be set up at the site for students and residents to learn about the fire and Santa Monica Mountains.

Apart from rehabilitating the land, Knight wants this undertaking to be an educational and enjoyable experience for the students and the rest of the community.

“We may install some tables on the flat piece of land so that students could come and make observations and learn about the native wild landscape and people might come and enjoy a picnic,” Knight wrote.

In a recent board meeting on Jan. 23rd, the King James restoration project has been voted to be “tabled.” Further discussion with the local homeowners association is needed to take place in order for the plan to move forward.

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