Representative Judy Chu Honors Local Leaders

New Sierra Madre Post Office Garden Saves Water, Demonstrates Fire Safety

During the ribbon cutting for a new model fire-defensive landscape at the Louis Van Iersel Post Office, Representative Judy Chu awarded Bob Spears, Jim Walsworth, and Georgia Case with congressional recognition and celebrated Sierra Madre’s spirit of community contribution.

“This community certainly comes together to make great things happen. I want to thank all our volunteers,” noted Representative Chu. “Our lead volunteers, Bob Spears and Jim Walsworth tirelessly fundraised, organized and literally moved boulders to make this landscape a reality. I also want to thank John and Georgia case, the owners of the post office property, who saw how important this project was and welcomed the renovation.”

Spears and Walsworth, retired firefighters, dreamed of creating fire defensive demonstration garden. In 2021, they approached the Case Family to get permission to renovate the space. They then selected expert landscapers and engaged the community to envision, fund and plant the space.

“This entire project was done with donated money,” noted Spears. “There is no post office money involved, no city money involved. This was all citizens stepping up and deciding this was a good project for Sierra Madre. This garden and its features reflect the new and improved values of our community.”

The post office landscape now demonstrates several features homeowners can mimic to amplify their property’s wildfire safety – and that of the community. Noteworthy features include:

  • Zone 0: The landscape contains only ember resistant materials in the 5-feet closest to the building.
  • Hyperlocal Native Foliage: Fire resilient native foliage will maintain hydration in high, dry heat.
  • Smart Irrigation: Low-flow, hydrozoned subsurface drip irrigation minimizes water use.
  • Bioswale: The sloped, rocky area at the corner of the property will ensure storms feed Sierra Madre’s groundwater and water independence. Sinking water onsite will also support the resilience of plant life.
  • Educational Markers: Plaques and botanical markers placed throughout the landscape further its educational purpose.

The project demonstrates more than fire defensive landscaping practices, noted Sierra Madre City Council Member Parkhurst: “This project demonstrates how Sierra Madre residents care about the city. It took only an hour to plant this expansive space, as so many showed up to help.”

Spears and Walsworth did a great deal of heavy lifting on their own to minimize costs. With professional guidance, they installed the smart irrigation, created the bioswale, and directed a downspout to capture rainfall from the post office roof. Walsworth built a beautiful bench to house and hide the irrigation controls. The pair also salvaged stones from the city yards and built a rock border to edge the landscape.

Donations from local agencies and businesses also supported the project. The San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (SGV-MWD) provided a grant for the renovation. Athens Services donated their removal of green waste as the site was cleared. Rainbird donated the landscape’s smart irrigation system. FormLA Landscaping donated the landscape design, educational instruction, and support for volunteer construction and plant installation. They also sourced and delivered foliage purchased from the Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery and El Nativo Growers. The garden’s signage and botanical markers were purchased from Orion Garden Marker.

Georgia Case, who represented the Case Family at the event, noted that this landscape renovation provides a useful model for other property owners who lease to the U.S. Postal Service throughout the country.

More Information

Learn about the landscape’s Plant Palette.

Learn more about Zone 0 and fire defensive landscaping.

Learn what to expect as plants grow.

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