At LAís new historic state park, is there no there there?
|June 3, 2017 - Steve Scauzillo reviews the long-awaited Los Angeles State Historic Park. We regret that the park isn't really connected yet to the Los Angeles River, physically or spiritually.|
|San Gabriel Valley Tribune|
|The trees are short. The playground. What playground? And aside from a walking bridge with a great view of the downtown skyline, thereís not much to do.|
Welcome to the newest park in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St., LA., 90012.
This place is what landscape architects like to call a ďpassiveĒ park.
You walk among the trees, the planted native habitat, the two sets of bathrooms and the brick and steel meeting room.
Itís not a place to play a soccer game. Or a baseball game. There are no active sports fields. No tennis courts. No handball walls. You get the idea.
They call it a park built by the people. Thatís because Majestic Realty of City of Industry had eyed it for a new set of tilt-ups. That is, until people in Chinatown and the new L.A. downtown dwellers rose up and said they wanted open space. They got it.
Itís a banana shaped 32-acre park stretching roughly from the Chinatown Gold Line Station to the Broadway bridge over the seedier part of the Los Angeles River.
Iíve watched this thing take shape, each mound of dirt, each sapling planted, during at least five years of riding the Gold Line train between Pasadena and Union Station. Train riders get a fantastic view of the place as it whooshes by the former cornfield.
Just before the entrance is where the freight tracks used to end. Every December, railroad cars filled with Christmas trees would sit and wait. Men would stand them on the platform and auction them off, one by one. My wife and two young boys enjoyed that Christmas ritual. Like a throwback to the industrial days, you could take home fresh Oregon fir trees from a train in a rail yard adjacent to old warehouses belching white smoke.
It gave Christmas that Dickensian feel.
Now, the warehouses are cleaner. Some take in cans and bottles for recycling. Others are hipper, transformed into fitness centers, restaurants or startups with strange names serving the younger crowd living in this tip of downtown, Chinatown and not too far away, Highland Park.
On Memorial Day, my wife, Karen and I, checked the place out. The cool breezes made the walk pleasant. But I can imagine a difference on a hot day. There ainít much shade. Itís a point that Joe Matthews makes in his piece on the new park dedicated in April in the blog CityWatchla.com.
Matthews, an editor at Zocalo Public Square, makes some valid criticisms. That the park is a miracle just to have beaten the titans of industry at their game (Ed Roski?). But itís like a blank canvas, still waiting for some color.
Shade trees will take time to grow. And people need to make this place their own.
But maybe, says Matthews, the first in-park restaurant can add excitement, as would community. What about a series of nighttime concerts in the park? he asks. Right now, park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset.
I walked the bridge and like a tourist, aimed my phone at the downtown LA skyline.
A boy, not more than 10 years old, swung at Wiffle ball pitches from his dad in the grassy field below the elevated walkway.
On a bench, a young man lay prostrate, his head in the lap of a woman who stroked his brown hair.
This is L.A. Or is it? This isnít the razzle dazzle of Hollywood Boulevard. Nor does it have the feel of the urban hikers in their REI jackets and Saucony shoes on the trails of Griffith Park. This ainít no ďLa La LandĒ set.
Perhaps this is a new chance for people from L.A. and the communities not far away in the Arroyo to chill, appreciate nature. To just take in a stroll, sans celebrity sightings.
And one day, there will be commerce nearby. Just outside the entrance, builders are working on an adaptive re-use of the Capitol Milling Co. brick building, soon to be stores, shops and apartments. It could become, as one reader commented on the urbanize.la site, L.A.ís Ghirardelli Square.
Ethnic foods. Transit stops. Hipster neighborhoods. All next to an odd-shaped park that grows on you.
Steve Scauzillo covers transportation and the environment for the Southern California News Group. Heís a recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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