They had to be careful of the poison oak.
Volunteer Park Ranger Ellen Lutwak noted that when some of Congressman Howard Berman’s team were placing signs to the entrance of Berman Trail at in Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, they were putting them in a big patch of poison oak.
“Rub some dirt on your hands and your exposed skin that touched the leaves—and don’t touch your face or eyes,” warned Lutwak, who also writes for . “Leaves of three, let them be.”
It was the first stop on Berman’s “Accomplishment Tour,” in which he hit spots that demonstrated “unmatched effectiveness in the race to fill California’s newly-drawn 30th Congressional seat,” said his press liaison Zack Tupper. “We were trying to figure out how to best show his accomplishments, and figured it would be best to just take a tour of them throughout the district and show some concrete examples of what he has done.”
After the stop at Franklin Canyon's Berman Trail (named after the congressman), Berman's campaign had other stops planned at the Sherman Oaks Galleria and NBCUniversal Studios. See the other stories on Sherman Oaks Patch and North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch:
Although the Franklin Canyon stop was just outside the lines of the redrawn 30th Congressional District, the other two stops were within the boundaries that include Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Chatsworth, Northridge, Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Encino, Toluca Lake, his home in Valley Village, and chunks of North Hollywood and Burbank.
“My dog loves your trail,” Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association board member Elke Heitmeyer told Berman. She attended the campaign event with her dog, Malaika, and told Studio City Patch that she frequently comes to the park and brings tourists who are amazed at its remote feeling within the metropolis. “We wanted to thank him in person.”
Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield introduced Berman, saying that if the group toured all the accomplishments that the congressman was responsible for, “we would be touring until election day” on June 5.
Berman is credited with starting the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which strategically bought up 69,000 acres of parkland for public use, and saving Franklin Canyon's outdoor classroom.
“He did not walk away from the group after he created it," Blumenfield said, "and he stepped up and provided special follow-up legislation to preserve it.”
Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, waved his arm toward the hills and trails and said, “This area where we are standing would be chained off and blocked off with ‘No Trespassing’ signs were it not for Howard Berman.”
Edmiston described how developers once planned to cut off the tops of the hills and fill in the canyons in the area, but then the convervancy was formed in 1976.
“Everyone was against the conservancy at that time,” Edmiston said. “Howard Berman knows how to work with both sides of the aisle and got a few to change their vote, and he has been pioneering the parkland ever since.”
When Interior Secretary James Watt under Ronald Reagan wanted to remove protections for Franklin Canyon Park and sell it off, Berman stepped in to help save it, Edmiston said.
Berman, speaking specifically to Dan Romano of Save Franklin Canyon Park and addressing concerns about future housing developments, told the gathering, “I know there is still work to be done, and I want us to stay on top of it.”
Berman also spoke to Patch about purchasing Studio City's as a public park and water reclamation area.
“Unfortunately, that would have been nicely handled under earmarks," Berman said. "But as we know, earmarks are not the way to go anymore in Congress. So we have to come up with more imaginative ways to find the money for a purchase like that. I am aware of the Weddington Park situation and the importance it is to Studio City and the entire Los Angeles River, so it will remain a high priority for me to figure out ways to get money for that.”
Beth Dymond, president of Save L.A. River Open Space, and her husband, Alan Dymond, who are also board members of the Studio City Residents Association, attended the press conference along with Sierra Club activist Sharon Ford.
“Our community owes Congressman Berman a lot for his work in purchasing the open space we have now, and for offering support and encouragement in trying to develop the L.A. River into a national park,” Alan Dymond said.
Plans for Weddington Park would include keeping public tennis courts as well as an open space, with a water filtering system that would clean street runoff that pours into the river.
“It would benefit all the schools—public and private—in the area and certainly be a benefit for the community,” Dymond said.
Berman said green space in a major metropolitan area such as Los Angeles was important to preserve and there needed to be a stop to “haphazard and reckless development.”
He said that, despite the gridlock plaguing Congress, there is hope that Republicans and Democrats can come together to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and help develop alternative energy.
"Every single thing I have done that has been successful is because I could find a partner on the other side," Berman said. "It takes a little time and if you offer strategy for it, you can do it."