Thousands of marijuana plants worth about $5 million were removed, in what authorities called an all day-long operation, from rough terrain at a Southern California public park Friday.
Between 2,500 and 4,000 plants were found in the Muddy Canyon area of the Laguna Wilderness Park, south of the 73 Freeway toll road, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The “eradication” operation required authorities to hike up the rugged area and manually tear out the plants. A sheriff’s airship “Duke” was being used to take the plants to a nearby area to be packaged for evidence, officials said.
"There is a complex irrigation here with this grow," said Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "As far as where exactly it's coming from, and the source, that's still part of the investigation."
Authorities were looking into the possibility of the grow's irrigation system being connected to the one in the park.
The plants were discovered by a nature conseveration group who were flying above the parks searching for non-native habitats -- otherwise known as weeds.
Investigators said the operation began around 7 a.m. and was expected to take between five and six hours.
An investigation into the plants was underway but authorities had no suspect information and it was unclear how long the plants had been growing.