June 16, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Our LA Parks: Treasures Hiding in Plain Sight

Q: What is the Department of Recreation and Parks, exactly? Can you give us kind of a “big picture†overview of what you guys do?

A: The Department of Recreation and Parks is the most comprehensive social service agency in the City. The Department’s facilities are as diverse and wide-ranging as the people it serves and include over 15,000 acres of parkland with over 400 neighborhood and regional parks, eleven lakes, 60 swimming pools, 13 golf courses and more than 180 recreation and community centers. The Department operates two beaches plus the famous Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk. Our Griffith Park alone includes the iconic Observatory, the Greek Theater, three fine golf courses, the Equestrian Center, many miles of hiking and riding trails, Travel Town, the Zoo, the Autry Museum, a carousel, pony trail rides, a swimming pool, summer camps for boys and for girls, and a multitude of other facilities.
Q: How have you been affected by budget cutbacks?

A: We have been severely affected. The City’s financial condition has forced department budgets to be cut over the past four years. Also, our gross revenue, based on city-wide property assessments is shrinking with declining property values. As a result, the budget we have to spend on operating and maintaining our parks and recreation programs is almost 40% below what it was a few years ago, when we had fewer parks. We have seen a similar reduction in our work force. We have responded by finding every efficiency we can, by establishing the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to help us find donated funds, and by reorganizing the Department to emphasize working with private sector partners. Through these steps, we have minimized (but not totally avoided) the impact of the cuts on park users.

Q: What are some of the most surprising things you think citizens of Los Angeles should know about their parks system?

1) Over the last four years, we have added about 35 parks to our system, bringing our total to 417 parks.

2) Our Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk is Southern California’s second most popular tourist attraction, right after Disneyland.

3) In summer 2010, in the communities where Summer Night Lights programs were held to keep our recreations centers open in the evening there was an 11% reduction in gang-related crime.

4) Over the last three years, we reduced our potable water use by 38% by using “smart irrigation†and recycled water.

5) We pioneered universal access playgrounds, beginning in Griffith Park with Shane’s Inspiration. They offer disabled children the chance to play with fully-abled children. Now they have spread all over the country, including about 25 such playgrounds among our total of 383 playgrounds. Now we are working on a universal access ball field.

6) We own the Andres Pico Adobe, the second oldest Adobe home in Los Angeles; St. Peter’s Cemetery in San Pedro, the oldest cemetery in the City; and the historic Lummis House in Arroyo Seco.

7) Recreation and Parks territory includes 14 community gardens, wonderful cricket pitches, an airport for model airplanes, a live steam locomotive layout where anyone can ride the trains on Sundays, and the nation’s grandest rose garden.

8) In any major civic emergency, from grass fires to earthquakes, our recreation centers are the emergency shelters and staging areas. Our personnel are trained to be critical responders along with the Fire Department.

Q: Summer is here. Any recommendations on parks people should visit if they can?

A: Everything I just mentioned. They should visit all of our unique facilities! – but Aquatics is the thing in the summer. All summer long Aquatics offers, Education Programs, Recreational Swimming, Water Awareness, Adaptive Swimming, Team Sports, Exercise, Fishing, and New Job Skills and Opportunities. We have two wonderful partners LA84 Foundation and Kaiser Permanente that assist in teaching kids how to swim, dive, and perform synchronized swimming. Check it out on our Department’s web site http://www.laparks.org/.

Q: We’re in Brentwood. What’s close by that we should know about?

A: Barrington Recreation Center offers youth classes for ages 4-6 in basketball, tennis and arts and crafts. Barrington also offers youth (ages 7-17) and adult tennis classes.
Barrington Summer Basketball will begin on Saturday July 9th. You can visit Barrington’s website at (search Barrington Recreation Center on the park finder) to get more detailed information and download their Summer Program. Recent improvements to Barrington have been made by generous donations from community members to the LA Parks Foundation (headquartered on San Vicente in Brentwood) to make possible restroom restorations and to refurbish the indoor and outdoor basketball courts.
Crestwood Hills has completed its refurbishment project and has all new interior facilities. It is currently open on Friday from 9am-3pm and Saturday from 12pm-5pm but is available at anytime on a permit basis.
Of course, our beautiful parks and recreation centers in Westwood, Pacific Palisades, and Rustic Canyon are just a stone’s throw from Brentwood.

Q: Tell us about your 50 parks initiative.

A: The 50 Parks Initiative is a program to address the need for more parks in the oldest and most densely populated areas of Los Angeles. The Department is capitalizing on the recent decline in residential real estate prices by acquiring and developing 50 new sites for neighborhood parks. We are working with multiple public and private partners to acquire the land and raise the funds for this important initiative. The Department will also work with the residents near the proposed parks to assure that new parks will serve the needs felt by the people in the community.
The development of 50 new public parks will provide innumerable physical, social, health, and environmental benefits for local communities. These new parks will help stabilize neighborhoods, remove blight caused by abandoned buildings and empty lots, and beautify residential areas. In this one stroke we will forever erase the charge that Los Angeles is “park poor.†They will be built in a way to minimize additional burdens on the Department’s maintenance and operations obligations.

Q: How can citizens of Brentwood or the Westside help?

A: Anyone who has an appropriate vacant property in high need areas of our city may donate it for park purposes. Additionally, corporations, individuals, or family foundations can provide funds to acquire or build our new parks and be recognized for their gifts.

Q: I understand citizens can sponsor park benches. Tell us about that.
A: The Los Angeles Parks Foundation is the department’s charitable organization similar to the Library Foundation or the Police Foundation. It raises funds and expedites privately funded park enhancements. The Foundation has a Friend-of-the Parks membership program, a Donate-A-Bench program and an Adopt-A-Park program. All of these programs are described on the Parks Foundation website at http://www.laparksfoundation.org/EN/ . The Donate-A-Bench program provides an opportunity for people to donate a bench with a personalized plaque to a park of their choice. When someone donates a bench, a beautiful new bench made of recycled and virtually indestructible materials is placed in an agreed location. It is a beautiful way to honor or remember a person whom the donor admires.

Q: Anything else?

A: Angelenos have a great resource in their Recreation and Parks system. It is an enormous year-round source of enjoyment for all of us. From sports leagues to senior centers we offer enjoyment and relaxation to every person. Our parks and recreation programs are crucial to living healthy and happy lives in our City. The financial pressures that affect our Department and its ability to deliver services to the public will be with us for years to come. The City cannot do it alone. The only way for us to continue to offer the people of our City the quality and quantity of recreation and parks services that they deserve is through the growing generosity and efforts of donors, partners, and volunteers. We have recently reorganized our Department to emphasize partnerships. We urge everyone to pitch in.

Griffith Observatory
VENICE BEACH SKATE PARK

Barry Sanders

in News
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