Santiago Avenue Bridge Mini-Park in Santa Ana

August 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

One of two identical commemorative metal plaques on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge, located in the city of Santa Ana

I’ve been spending some time with family down in Orange County… and I got a chance to explore Santiago Creek. I did this exploring mostly by bike. It was actually really great to get my mind off of things and just follow an urban creek upstream and down. I love to bike around on streets and anticipate where I might be able to access a creek next, looking for what sort of condition it’s in, how access, bicycling, reinforcement, humans, critters, vegetation, etc. all are working or not for the waterway.

I did a great deal of this sort of exploration a lot in the late 1990s when I was first setting up the monthly Down By The River walks series for Friends of the L.A. River, and then quite a bit in 2005 when I was working on my book Down by the Los Angeles River. I recommend it highly – exploring creeks, I meant, not my book – though I recommend that too.

Whether you’ve got a concrete channel or a natural creek in your neighborhood, explore it – see where it flows to (often a journey from urban to even more highly degraded and concreted… until you get to the ocean) and where it flows from (of ten a journey from concrete to natural foothills streams.) It can give one a sense of place… often it takes one to the older parts of a place – great historic neighborhoods and bridges, other depression-era public works… sometimes just a slice, a sort of transect, through neighborhoods, including great places and neglected ones.

Santiago Creek is a tributary of the Santa Ana River. Santiago runs mostly through the cities of Santa Ana and Orange. I wrote about Santiago Creek briefly here, and ran Joel Robinson’s Santiago alert here. There’s also the Santiago Creek Greenway Alliance that’s working to protect the creek. I am going to write more extensively about my recent Santiago Creek explorations soon, but I thought I’d get something posted quickly about one feature I encountered.

Here’s a video I shot on the 1947 Santiago Avenue Bridge:

Here’s where it’s located:

Though the plaque on the bridge says “Santiago Avenue”, it’s now on Santiago Street. The bridge is at the north end of Santiago Street, just south of Memory Lane – in the city of Santa Ana.

Doing some internet research, I couldn’t find anything specifically about the bridge mini-park… I don’t even know the official name of the bridge mini-park project… though I suspect that it’s connected with the nearby Santiago Creek Wildlife and Watershed Center in the city’s Santiago Park. Basically, the bridge has been closed to car traffic, while open to bikes and pedestrians. A few landscape park features have been added: a creek-like bio-swale, benches, trees, permeable pavement, etc.

Overall it’s a good project, worthy of this L.A. Creek Freak’s stamp of approval. When I visited, in the afternoon on a weekday, there weren’t too many people using the site as a park, though I did observe a few pedestrians, runners and cyclists use it as a sort of paseo. I actually think that the bridge’s swales are a bit cosmetic… not bad… but frankly there’s not a lot of rainwater that falls and flows onto the deck of a bridge. I know I called one of them a creek in my quick extemporaneous narration on the video, but they’re really more Fake Creek of the Week material. It made me wonder if the project’s proponents may have added watershed management features to make some sort of grant application more competitive.

Overall I liked the site. Instead of perhaps tearing down a historic bridge, the city of Santa Ana instead preserved the structure but removed it from car traffic and turned it over to walking and bicycling – creating a safe convenient bicycle boulevard. Given the popularity of Los Angeles’ 4th Street Bridge during CicLAvia… I was thinking that there are probably bridges like this in Los Angeles, over our rivers and creeks. The historic bridges could be decommissioned for cars and retooled as parks and places for walking and bicycling. Maybe the Avenue 60 Bridge over the Arroyo Seco, or even 4th or 7th or North Spring, all downtown. They’re perhaps a little bigger than Santa Ana’s Santiago Avenue/Street, but it could still work if we get our priorities straight, and prioritize some space for bicycling and walking… it can happen.

View downstream from the Santiago Avenue Bridge over Santiago Creek

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