Trails & Open Space: Ascot Hills Park Opens in El Sereno

Hollywood has Runyon, Studio City has Wilacre and the Palisades has Temescal. Many of Los Angeles' hillside neighborhoods are situated near open space, giving residents convenient opportunities to outdoor recreation. Now, with Ascot Hills, you can add El Sereno to that list.

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It's been open for a few months now, but Los Angeles city officials gathered in late June to celebrate the grand opening of Ascot Hills Park, a 93-acre open space park tucked into an El Sereno neighborhood.

The park hosts a few miles of dirt trails--a mix of fire road and single-track, some of which that are quite steep--an amphitheater, restrooms, picnic tables and a small stream. And don't forget to take in the 360-degree view, offering perspectives of downtown, East LA and the San Gabriel Valley.

"Ascot Hills Nature Park offers a natural setting for Eastside residents right in their own backyard and will be an oasis for all to enjoy for decades to come," said City Councilmember Jose Huizar.

But opening the land to the public was no easy task. Ascot Hills, named after the popular Legion Ascot Speedway of the 1920s, was originally proposed to be a city park in the Olmsted Plan in 1930. It never happened and was later used as an outdoor training center for LADWP employees.

Like a zoo, neighbors and students at Woodrow Wilson High School across the street could only peer through the locked gates and fences, but were not allowed to enter. "Until the groundbreaking for the park in 2005, the largest open space in East Los Angeles was Evergreen Cemetery," reads a description about the planning of the park by The City Project on UCLA's website. "This sent the wrong message to our children. If you want open space, you have to die first."

A year after the groundbreaking some trails and a gravel parking lot opened on 40 acres of the property. The rest of the park was to be completed with funds from the state, which disappeared during the budget crisis, forcing the city to finish on its own or scrap the second phase all together. Residents anxiously waited. Six years after the groundbreaking they had their park.

Below are some photos taken on a Saturday in late June. A video at the bottom shows the park during the spring, when the grass is still green.

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About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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