One of Elysian Valley's L.A. River-adjacent gems, Marsh Park, just got better with a three-acre expansion west. "This new park is a great change from being an auto storage yard," said Rorie Skei, Chief Deputy Director at Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), a state agency that partners with Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to help preserve open space and wildlife habitat.
Opening to the public this Saturday, August 16, the expanded park now includes tree-lined paths and a free play meadow sandwiched in the midst of garages and homes of Elysian Valley. Landscaped by Meléndrez, the park replaces a big dirt lot with two structures -- a 14,300 square-foot metal warehouse and a 3,000-square foot wood and stucco building -- giving the community more natural amenities near the Los Angeles River. "We had to remove the smaller buildings to open up the river views," says Skei.
To encourage neighborhood fitness, the agency will also be adding thirteen fitness stations along the nature trail, while outdoor classrooms and a 200-person Spanish mission-style picnic pavilion by ERW Architects will be available for events and special event bookings. It will also open up more educational opportunities (such as marshmallow campfires). Saltzman promises, "We'll be hosting regular events at the park to teach people about nature along L.A. River and in the park."
The design of the park came from a number of community meetings, says Laura Saltzman, Associate Landscape Architect at MRCA. The new park is now filled with native plants that flourish along watercourses and stream beds in Los Angeles. Bioswales throughout the project site also clean and filter runoff from the surrounding 42 acres. "We've gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from community members and stakeholders," says Saltzman. Though the expansion hasn't officially opened yet, glimpses can be seen through fences during a visit to the original Marsh Park. "People are really thrilled with the outcome."
Though banal to some, perhaps the most exciting amenity is the public restrooms available at the park. It would be the first public restroom along the Los Angeles River bikeway for nine-miles. The expanded park also features parking for 42 cars and electric vehicle charging stations.
"This means we could potentially start the kayaking in the river recreational zone from here," says Dash Stolarz, the MRCA Public Affairs Director. The expanded park's facilities would certainly help alleviate the two main concerns regarding operations of the recreational zone: parking and restroom facilities.
The $4-million project has long been in the books, but the bond freeze in 2008 delayed the construction of the project. Only in 2013 did the project get back on track again. "Probably the most challenging part of this whole process was getting the funds assembled," says Skei. "It was a total freeze in 2008. All the grantees from state bonds were told to stop. We couldn't be reimbursed if we did continue to the work." The State of California funded more than 90 percent of the project, including purchasing the land. Other fund sources include Proposition 13 funds called out in the 2000 budget; Proposition 84 funds awarded under the guidelines created by Senator Kevin de Leon's AB-31; as well as the Santa Monica Conservancy and Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, and Los Angeles County Proposition A funds secured by the Conservancy.
Attend the opening events at Marsh Park Phase II, August 16, 11:30 a.m., 2960 Marsh Street, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
Photos courtesy of SMMC Archives.