Ground Broken for North Atwater Creek Restoration
October 28, 2010 § 3 Comments
Another perfect Los Angeles day for another good step forward for Los Angeles River restoration and revitalization. It was a clear crisp cloudless fall sky – the kind of light that shimmers on flowing waters and shaking leaves and gives us a glimpse of just what an extraordinary natural treasure the L.A. basin was… and can again be.
A crowd of over a hundred – mainly Atwater neighbors, creek freaks, and civil servants – assembled for the groundbreaking ceremonies for the North Atwater Park Expansion and Creek Restoration. Hosting and quarterbacking was Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, in whose district the project is located – though it will serve all Angelenos, especially Council President Eric Garcetti’s constituents, who live adjacent to the site. Rounding out the dignitaries speaking and shovelling were: Councilmember Ed Reyes, Deputy City Engineer Deborah Weintraub, Public Works Commissioner Steve Nutter, Recreation and Parks Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Barry Sanders, and Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar.
The project will add approximately three acres of riverside nature park to the city’s existing approximately five-acre North Atwater Park, located at the end of Chevy Chase drive.
The North Atwater Park expansion acreage added includes two new parcels. Both were already public lands, but neither has been accessible to the public:
- The first is a narrow, straight, fenced-off earthen-bottom drainage channel – essentially a highly degraded streambed – which carries street runoff to the river. Though more dry gully than creek, the channel did grow plenty of vegetation, mostly weedy, though including quite a bit of riparian willow.
- The second portion of the new park site was the former “boneyard” area of the city’s Central Service Yard (CSY.) The boneyard was an unsightly river-adjacent lot long known for storage of large piles of sawed-off tree trunks. (Creek Freak readers will recall that the non-profit The City Project has been pushing for using most or all of the 27.5-acre CSY and the adjacent L.A.-Glendale Sewage Treatment Plant site as a multi-function river park, dubbed Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River.)
The new acreage will extend North Atwater Park to the edge of the river. Currently it’s difficult to get from the park to the river, due to fences and impassable areas – though there is a bridle path that provides river access for creek freaks intrepid enough to explore and find it. (It’s at the south-downstream end of the park, adjacent to the baseball field.)
The new project really re-orients North Atwater Park from being a park that happens to be next to the river, to becoming a park that pertains to and connects with the river. The expanded park creates easier access to the river’s edge – both visually and physically. It will also connect to the river system by adding adjacent upland and creekbed habitat. The park’s restored creek reveals to visitors the way waters move through our landscapes draining smaller tributaries into larger creeks and rivers.
The project will feature an approximately 1000-foot-long restored meandering streambed. Fed by street runoff, the creek will be intermittent – dry much of the year (somewhat similar to the Bimini Slough Ecology Park.) Park users can explore the restored area via walking paths leading from the existing park to the river. Additional features include a small outdoor classroom and picnicking areas.
The park expansion project includes a parking lot for cars… certainly not my favorite feature for various environmental reasons… but this lot is relatively good. The ~30-car parking lot site is currently used for Central Service Yard parking (and there are lots and lots of parking at CSY.) The lot will continue to be closed to the public during the week, when it’s in use by CSY, but will be open to the public on weekends only. The project will retrofit the existing lot, adding trees and features to cleanse and infiltrate stormwater (similar to the Downey lots shown here.)
North Atwater Park Expansion and Creek Restoration has the distinction of being the first city of Los Angeles river park project to emerge from the city’s 2007 Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. The city certainly has numerous parks along the river (which don’t all gracefully interface with it), and did build Studio City’s L.A. River Greenway park while the city’s river plan was getting underway. The city has undertaken various river projects: bike paths, bridges, etc. The city has been a partner on state, county, and non-profit river park projects located in the city… but this is the first significant city-initiated Los Angeles River park project!
Another encouraging feature of the project is inter-departmental collaboration. It’s not always easy to get various city departments to work together. This site represents a true collaboration between the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Public Works’ Bureaus of Engineering and Sanitation. This creek freak and others have long contended that multi-purpose projects are what are needed to move us toward healthier waterways. I hope that this signals the beginning of greater cooperation in the future.
Deputy City Engineer Deborah Weintraub, who’s an architect and one of the city’s genuine leaders in river revitalization and in green building, announced that project construction will get underway in three weeks, and will take a little over a year. I am looking forward to enjoying this park in the near future!