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Volunteers clean up downed trees in Lost Lake Park

- The Fresno Bee

Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 | 03:31 PM

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Lost Lake Park, which took a beating when a freakish windstorm blew through the Valley in December, looks a bit more tidy thanks to the cleanup efforts Saturday of the Fresno County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team.

About 55 members of the team cut up downed trees, a big step toward reopening the park north of Fresno, said county Resources Manager John Thompson.

The Dec. 1 storm toppled about 155 trees -- crushing water lines and restrooms -- and made roads, picnic areas and sports fields inaccessible, prompting the park's closure.

The search and rescue team's volunteer work Saturday brings the 280-acre park closer to reopening, which Thompson hopes will be the second weekend in February.

The team's efforts saved the money-strapped county thousands of dollars, officials said.

Cleanup from the windstorm has been hampered by the same financial constraints that have limited maintenance and patrols at many county parks in recent years. The county's core parks budget -- about $1.2 million annually -- is less than half of what it was two years ago.

As a result, groundskeepers once stationed at many of the county's 13 parks have been replaced by a few maintenance crews that make only periodic visits to each park.

The search and rescue team -- composed of the mountaineer, jeep and mounted posse units -- have a special interest in Lost Lake Park, one of the places they train.

However, Saturday was about serving the community, said Larry Casado, commander of the jeep unit.

"We got the word that somebody needed help, and that's what we do," he said.

Team members come from all walks of life, including doctors, lawyers, farmers and college students, said Nick Kohli, mountaineering team leader.

"The common thread is we're all passionate about the outdoors," he said.

What will happen to the salvaged wood is unclear, Thompson said. The wood cannot be given away because it's a county asset, he said.

The park will be ready to reopen when debris and trees with dangling branches posing hazards are cleared and restroom water lines are repaired, he said.

Similar stories:

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