Pocket Park Breaks Ground in South L.A.

Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET

This post is in support of Departures, KCET's oral history and interactive documentary project about Los Angeles neighborhoods. The series has covered both the L.A. River and Richland Farms, an agricultural community in Compton that abuts its eponymous creek.

Once strewn with trash, a wide block-long concrete traffic median surrounded by single family homes is starting to look a little more like it should be: a neighborhood pocket park. Today the median is clean and has inklings of what the future holds, but it still has a ways to go before it becomes a literacy and fitness park.

The 4,000 square foot median sits one block south of busy Manchester Blvd. at 87th and McKinley Avenue in South L.A.'s Green Meadows community. The project is the dream of officials at Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists, a K-5 LAUSD Charter school around the corner.

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Students create temporary chalk art drawings before concrete is taken out |  Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET

Kendra Okonkwo"I feel the children in this area deserve a clean environment," said Kendra Okonkwo, the school's founder and Executive Director. "We have to teach them to believe in themselves and take care of the environment." She envisions the park to be a place where students can take learning outdoors sort of like the reading and teaching parks in Spain.

Exercise stations, a community bulletin, a vegetable and herb garden and a stream will also be included.

"They've taken this underutilized city-owned concrete median and transformed it into something really nice," exclaimed Councilmember Jan Perry, who represents the area and praised the partnership between the school, city, state parks (a $1.3 million grant was given), the L.A. Conservation Corps and non-profit Heal the Bay.

Students and the L.A. Conservation Corps place herbs into a planter | Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET

"The ocean seems like a long way away," began Heal the Bay's Mark Gold, who answered a question many had: why is an organization known for its beach projects here in South L.A.? He explained that the ocean begins at everyone's front door. Specifically in this neighborhood, water--and the trash it carries--drains into the Compton Creek, which heads to the L.A. River and down to the beaches of Long Beach. And the water quality in these areas is not exactly stellar.

"What's great about this project is that it shows you you can have multi-use facilities that provide amazing community benefits," he said, "but can also provide environmental benefits miles and miles away--that's really what this project is all about."

The Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists drill team | Photo by Zach Behrens/KCET

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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