ROWLAND HEIGHTS — Sheriff’s deputies removed more than 1,800 marijuana plants, valued at about $2.7 million, from a densely wooded county area near Pathfinder Community Regional Park Friday.
In addition to the marijuana plants, about 10 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Marijuana Eradication Team also hoisted more than 1,000 pounds of fertilizers, chemicals, trash and other items from the illicit garden at the bottom of a steep canyon between the park and Vantage Pointe Drive, Lt. Nick Tippings said.
Though hidden by a canopy of trees and difficult to access due to steep terrain, the large-scale growing operation was found little more than 1,000 feet away from both Pathfinder Park and homes.
“One of the things that bothers me about this one is how close it is to a residential neighborhood and a park,” Tippings said.
A sheriff’s helicopter pilot first spotted the site in recent weeks, he said. After investigating and obtaining a search warrant, the MET deputies arrived about 7 a.m. Friday and set up along Vantage Pointe Drive before hiking their way down to the marijuana garden, which was divided into several plots, each containing several hundred marijuana plants.
No suspects were found during the operation, however several campsites were dismantled. One contained a stove range and food such as Spam, canned sausages, tortillas and beans, along with laundry detergent and clothing hanging in a tree.
Other campsites stored fertilizers and other supplies used by the growers. Because of the relatively short hike involved in accessing the grow site, detectives said it appeared they visited during the day but did not spend the night.
Detectives gathered any items they believed might be useful in identifying those responsible for the grow.
No weapons were found, however a BB gun was recovered among the pot plants.
The entry point used by the growers appeared to have been along Fullerton Road, Wagner said.
Some of the camouflage-wearing deputies carried AR-15 rifles in case of an encounter with an armed pot farmer.
Possibly tipped off by increased sheriff’s helicopter traffic over the area in the days leading up to the bust, it appeared the growers had hurriedly harvested as much of the crop as they could, investigators said, but still left behind a significant amount of pot.
“They were here yesterday or the day before at the latest, based on the condition of the cut plants,” Detective Robert Wagner said.
To irrigate the crops, the growers laid miles of plastic tubing and dug plastic-lined reservoirs. They appeared to be stealing their water by tapping into the plumbing of the nearby residential community.
And this was not the first time the same area has been used as a marijuana garden, Wagner said. The MET deputies visited the same area last summer, where they found an already-abandoned grow operation.
It’s likely the same people are responsible for both gardens, Wagner added.
Residents of Vantage Pointe Drive took photos as deputies used a helicopter to hoist bundles of marijuana and garbage out of the canyon and laid down along the side of the road before being loaded into a truck. Many said they were shocked to learn a marijuana grow, and particularly such a large one, was being tended so close to their homes.
Neighbor Stacey Wong, 53, said she had noticed that sheriff’s helicopters appeared to be spending a lot of time in the area over past week but did not know why.
A grassy area in the neighborhood often attracts loitering teenagers at night, she said, but she’d never seen any suspicious people entering or exiting the wooded area.
Wong added that she was especially angered to learn the growers had apparently been stealing their water from her community.
“I hope they catch who did this,” she said.
PHOTOS by Watchara Phomicinda