County removes gnomes from “Gnome Island” citing safety concerns

gnomes in a holding pen at Stay Green Inc. after landscapers collected them on county safety concerns. photo courtesy of Stay Green President Chris Angelo.

“Gnome Island” is no more.

Landscapers acting on the safety concerns expressed by county officials removed more than a dozen garden gnomes from the Hasley Canyon Road roundabout median, closing a chapter of Castaic life, which embraced the impromptu placement of the ornaments.

Now the gnomes wait — in prison yard fashion — at the landscaping office of Stay Green Inc., the landscaping firm contracted by Los Angeles County.

“Last night, we received an email from the county, specifically telling us to remove the gnomes as they are a safety hazard to the public,” Stay Green President Chris Angelo told The Signal on Thursday.

He plans on bringing the gnomes to members of the Castaic Area Town Council in an effort to see the gnomes returned to the people who placed them on “Gnome Island,” Angelo said.

On a patch of green set inside the roundabout on Hasley Canyon Road, decorative garden gnomes not quite knee-high appear, were placed by unknown people, much to the delight of families with kids who grew to know them and point to them daily as they drive by.

Public works are tolerant of roadside displays but when someone complains about safety, then Public Works officials are bound by state law to respond.

“We have a practice of allowing roadside memorials set up by grieving families, expressing themselves,” said Kerjon Lee, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

The department does not have a “hard and fast rule” he said when it comes to roadside displays.“We try not to be hard-lined about it, but when concerns are brought to our attention about safety, we respond to that,” Lee said.

He pointed out late Thursday that Public Works “maintains more than 4,000 miles of public road right-of-way in Los Angeles County, including traffic safety features like the Hasley Canyon Road roundabout in Castaic.

“It’s the department’s practice to allow roadside memorials for a limited span of time, as long as they don’t constitute a traffic or safety hazard.

“In the case of the gnomes placed on the roundabout island, Public Works staff received complaints from the public citing that the installation was a distraction and presented a safety issue.

“Therefore, Public Works staff had the gnomes removed,” he said.

The placement of gnomes on the Hasley Canyon Road median was welcomed by may Castaic residents and particularly by Castaic families with children.

When vandals destroyed and removed gnomes from the location in mid-May, there was an outpouring of remorse over the incident.“My daughter (Gwen) just loves looking at them as we drive through the roundabout,” Sara Stinson told The Signal at the time. “She was very sad when they were destroyed.”Other Castaic residents who also relish seeing the gnome population “magically” increase on the island were also crushed by the gnome “massacre,” with many sharing their sentiments on social media posts.“I think it’s great for our small town,” one Castaic mother told The Signal a couple of weeks ago. “Whenever we take the kids to school, they love to count them.”

Now there are no gnomes to count.

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