Massive machine grinds through the park

Crews use impressive masticator to reduce wildfire risk

If you were anywhere near McNear Drive during the first two weeks of October last year, you probably heard the grinding teeth of what looked like a very large dinosaur. No, it wasn’t Barney, but a masticator. Over the course of those two weeks, it munched its way along the entire length of McNear Fire Trail on the crest of China Camp State Park. Almost all vegetation within 15 feet of both sides of the trail were consumed

Why was this done? As part of the region’s wildfire prevention programs, the state Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), in partnership with the San Rafael and Marin County Fire Departments, assessed this area and determined that better access for firefighters and firefighting equipment was needed. This work was funded by the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA).

Prior to the onset of work, crews surveyed the area with DPR. Pink flags were hung from trees and shrubs, marking them for removal. Orange flags indicated vegetation that should not be cut down or munched.  Chainsaws, some mounted on long poles,  were used to clear large branches and saplings while the masticator chewed up deadfall and shrubs.

Watching the crew work was impressive and a bit scary. Here is a video of the masticator in action. Thanks to San Rafael Fire Department, Marin Fire, Marin Wildfire Prevention, and DPR for helping reduce the fire risk in our region.—by Joyce Abrams, FOCC board member and maintenance volunteer coordinator


Photo: joyce abrams/focc