Friday, May 18, 2012
A little excitement in the neighborhood
Last week I was driving to work, minding my own business, and when I drove past the parking lot of our nearby park, I was surprised to see it was full of very official-looking vehicles. Just before I passed the driveway, a white pick-up truck pulled out in front of me, and in I could see half a dozen guys wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying guns.
Whoa. What was this? The truck had an official seal on the side, like the highway patrol or maybe the state park.
The guys were sitting in the back of the pick-up truck, too. My mind flashed to the time my neighbor, who is a landscaper, picked the kids' carpool up from the bus-stop in her pick-up truck for the half-mile trip to our street. She got stopped by a park ranger and was scolded for transporting kids unsecured in her truck.
The truck made the left turn onto the boulevard before me, and - because I was going that way - I followed. They were ahead of me all through town until halfway down the mountain, then they pulled over to the side.
I passed them and continued on to work, wondering. What was going on? National Guard training? A film shoot? Probably a movie location shoot, I thought.
Nope. As it turns out, here's the story, from the LA Times:
$100-million pot farm destroyed in Topanga State Park raid
May 14, 2012 | 3:50 pm
Authorities have uncovered a 34,000-plant marijuana farm in Topanga State Park -- the largest such operation found in the Santa Monica Mountains in seven years.
Law enforcement officials raided the site Friday after park rangers found a plastic-lined earthen dam diverting water from a Topanga Creek tributary to a marijuana cultivation site deep in the park’s backcountry, said Craig Sap, Angeles District Supt. for California State Parks.
Officials destroyed an estimated $100-million worth of marijuana, mostly young plants about 1 to 2 feet tall. The raid was carried out by a team of state park rangers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and officials with the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority.
No arrests were made, Sap said, though three men were seen fleeing the scene.
Authorities also removed more than 500 pounds of trash and supplies left behind by pot farmers, including propane tanks, decaying batteries, fertilizer and pesticides that are banned in California. They said they also found hunting traps and a dead fox.
The growing operation was divided into 13 plots distributed throughout the steep chaparral, Sap said. It caused extensive damage to the soil, watershed, native plants and animals. It could take years for the environment to recover, he said.
“It takes so much effort to catch these guys,” Sap said. “The goal really is to get rid of the drugs and restore the site.”
More pot-growing sites have been cropping up in the Santa Monica Mountains in the last few years as increased enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border has made smuggling more risky, Sap said.
In 2009 authorities discovered a marijuana-growing operation 25 feet behind the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga Station.
(Note to LA Times - the LAPD Topanga Station isn't in the community of Topanga, it's in Canoga Park)