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An Expanded Marsh Park and Marshmallows on the L.A. River

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Marsh Park campfire in Elysian Valley. Photo: The City Project/Flickr/Creative Commons

A delectable combination is headed to the Los Angeles River banks this summer courtesy of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA).

Work will begin this summer on a $3.2-million expansion of Marsh Park. Already a community amenity, the park is looking to add an additional 3 acres to its grounds, southwest of its current location.

"That area is really park poor. Neighborhood park space is really a premium," said Dash Stolarz, director of public affairs at MRCA, "We saw this land and thought we could really turn it into a wonderful amenity."

Currently the site holds two buildings and the remnants of an abandoned asphalt driveway. MRCA purchased the property in 1997. Funded by grants from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program of 2011, and Council District 13, the expanded park will have more than 3,500 square feet of open-air picnic spaces designed to accommodate about 200 people, a free play meadow, a landscaped walking nature trail, health and fitness stations, and a 43-car lot. The expanded areas will slope gently down, feeding into bioswales that would intercept stormwater flows. According to Stolarz, the work should take about a year to complete.

Plans for Marsh Park expansion | Courtesy of the MRCA
Plans for Marsh Park expansion | Courtesy of the MRCA

In preparation for the expansion, the agency has prepared a suite of summer activities meant to entice families and kids down one of the sweetest spots on the Los Angeles River. On the roster are campfires, camp songs, mom and me walks, bird walks and perhaps the most delicious come-on roasted marshmallows over an open fire.

"We really want to make sure that these land are open for public access, that people to come and use the park and use it a gateway to the river," says Jamie Cabral, who oversees interpretative programs at MRCA.

According to Cabral, these free summer programs are geared toward the different family types who may want to explore the river. Evening campfires could be suited to families with older children, who may be curious about the plant and animal life around the waterway. Naturalists will be on-hand to talk about the site's features and encourage curiosity about this urban habitat.

Meanwhile, those caring for even younger children could be more comfortable at the "Mom and Me" sessions, a one-hour hands-on program to delight young toddlers. "It won't be an intense walk," says Cabral. "It's an opportunity to get out, meet people and see the river with the community."

Bird walks held by the Audubon Society would cater to a more mature crowd looking to understand more of nature. For those who ever wondered what that bird was called, or what that strange sound was in the distance by the river, a bird walk could just give you your answers.

"We'd love to bring people outside," says Cabral. "These are opportunities to help commit them to their local nature, Santa Monica parks and the whole watershed."

No reservations are needed to attend the programs, but if you will be attending with a large group, please inform the office. Cabral jokes, "We'd love to know they're coming so we can bring enough marshmallows."

All programs meet at Marsh Park, 2960 Marsh Street, Los Angeles. Summer programs run until August 30. 

Marshmallows at Marsh Park | Photo: Courtesy of MRCA
Marshmallows at Marsh Park | Photo: Courtesy of MRCA

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