Touring Native Plantings at Rio De Los Angeles State Park

March 9, 2010 § 4 Comments

Coreopsis flowers in bloom at Rio De Los Angeles State Park

I got a chance to tour Rio de Los Angeles State Park yesterday morning as part of a tour inspecting work North East Trees had recently completed. NET’s work was part of a Caltrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation (EEM) grant. The work was mostly planting of native trees and shrubs. As with my recent visit to La Culebra, due to the nice wet El Niño season, the vegetation at RDLASP is looking very green and lush. What follows is mostly a photo essay of what I saw.

The park's low-lying wetland area is a full-on pond after recent rains

The EEM grant, a mitigation for freeway work at the intersection of the 5 and 134 Freeways, was initially intended to take place at the “Polliwog” site; historically part of Griffith Park, adjacent to the city of Burbank. With the straightening of the river and the intrusion of the 134 Freeway, Polliwog is now separated from the L.A. River. The location was switched to RDLASP when NET was unable to secure permits at Polliwog.

Native purple-blue lupine flowers are plentiful today, with lots more young lupines with flowing still to come. The weedy grassy growth is pretty thick around them.

One excellent sign is the amount of use the park is seeing. Even on a Monday morning, there were plenty of people using the sports fields and the paths through the natural areas. In a visit that lasted less than two hours, I saw runners, walkers, basketball players, soccer players, tot lot kids, rich and poor, young and elderly, Latino and Caucasian. The 40-acre park is an important example of a multiple uses coexisting, overlapping, and enriching each other.

The soccer fields are so well-used that the grass has worn away and they need to be re-seeded

North East Trees had planted various natives including: sages, oaks, sycamores, and much more. Most of the new native plants were doing well, but the site is loaded with non-native species, too – some invasive.

Young oak tree planted by North East Trees - doing really well, lots of spring growth

The cottonwoods, willows, and sycamores initially planted when the park opened in 2007 are doing pretty well. Some of the willows are suffering from some insect damage, but on the whole, the trees that were small then are filling out nicely.

The cottonwood tree on the left in the background is growing a new "pup" in the foreground on the right. The young tree grows from the roots of the original.

Native ceanothus in bloom over a mosaic bench which tells the story of the history of the site, and how the park came to be here.

The whole site is designed to collect surface drainage from rains. From the active recreation areas excess rainwater flows through gentle depressions (swales) into the low-lying wetland area. We had heavy rains on Saturday, and still on monday morning these swales – sort of mini-manmade-creekbeds were still flowing. It’s an example of the way natural creekbeds absorb water during rains, then gradually discharge their waters afterwards.

Streambed with plenty of flowing water, drainage from the baseball fields area down to the wetlands.

The wetlands area was plenty full with water. We heard the croaking of frogs, and saw squirrels, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and swallows.

Seasonal pond quite full a few days after rains. Difficult to tell this photo was taken in the middle of Los Angeles, though if you look closely you can spot the lighting poles for the nearby soccer fields

Right now, and for the next couple months, is an excellent time to explore local parks and wilderness areas. Flowers are blooming. Hillsides are lush and green. Seasonal waterways are flowing. Get out there and explore your local creek! 

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§ 4 Responses to Touring Native Plantings at Rio De Los Angeles State Park

  • Chad in Hollywood says:

    Beautiful photo essay! Now lets get the rest returned to its natural state at Taylor Yard to the river!

    • Joe Linton says:

      Yes – it’s going to take some serious political pressure to get that connection to the river (expensive project, during a fiscal crunch) – but it’s really critical!

  • Joe Linton says:

    My apologies for leaving out the role of the California State Parks Foundation in supporting the projects described in this blog article. Below is per their local head, Sarah Feldman, who didn’t want to toot her own horn. This is the 21st Century, so I am passing her words along to you all. And a big thanks to CSPF for all the great work they do in L.A. and up and down the state:

    “Thanks so much for posting on Rio. However, just for the sake of accuracy, please don’t omit credit to the California State Parks Foundation.

    We funded all of the work for Rio wetlands beyond what funding State Parks had, through two grants – one from the Wildlife Conservation Board, the first time they ever funded an urban park, which allowed for the interpretive signage and the path to be built around the wetlands.

    We also obtained a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy that funded all of North East Trees’ work for the last 3 years, except during the period when bond funds were frozen. NET used their Caltrans grant during this time to do the work, which was both clever and extremely appreciated, but the Conservancy grant was eventually unfrozen and extended to make up for the 6-month freeze.

    All those trees on the border of the park were planted by volunteers through the California State Parks Foundation Earth Day program, which has been held at Rio for several years now. This year it will be at L.A. State Historic Park on April 17th. Working with NET on that one, too.

    The Foundation has worked with State Parks and NET to build the restored wetlands for all these years, and is continuing that work to this day. I personally love that park and all the innovative restoration that’s taken place there, and I hope to be able to help fund work there for at least two more years. “

  • darrellkuni says:

    Does my heart good. Some recovery, that’s good.

    My realist self says, pal, LA ain’t never going back to dire wolves and trapped pachys, or pobladores tramping into town, or where town would be. And you like to drive a car. But efforts like this park soothe me.

    Angel’s Flight reopened this week. Think I’ll visit the park soon.

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