It's been a 16-year process for the new Los Angeles State Historic Park.
It's in the heart of the city, within reach of Dodger Stadium, nestled right in between Chinatown and the L.A. River. Take Two took a sneak peek tour just ahead of the park's grand opening on Earth Day. There are art installations and native plants all around to create many Instagram-ready selfie backgrounds.
If you stand right in the middle of it and look south, you see the DTLA skyline and City Hall ...
... Look north and you get a shot of the Spring Street bridge with the San Gabriel Mountains right behind it.
Sean Woods took us around the park, in a golf cart no less. He's the superintendent of California State Parks, Los Angeles sector and he says this park wasn't just made for people, but that everything about its construction was made in conjunction with the people it's intended to serve.
Building with the people
From the beginning, the park faced countless roadblocks and obstacles. But the problems only rallied the community to come together and build the park alongside one another. While bumping along through the park, Woods stopped in the middle of what's been coined "the great lawn" and explained the park's history.
"Let's go back to 2001. OK, so you purchase a piece of land and then you have to have an extensive planning process to decide what you're going to build on this site. Most people don't know that the original bond funding in 2001 was just to purchase the land. We had no money to build this park, so we were always optimistic that we would figure it out as we went along, but what we decided to do with this park was uniquely different than other state parks.
We own some of the most iconic locations and resources in the nation. This was a new direction for the department with the realization that the state was changing, that it was becoming more diverse, more urban ... and that by and large, the people who were coming to our parks did not represent the diversity of California ..."
And so an initiative was born, one aimed to build parks in urban areas to make more culturally relevant programming.
"We're really focused on the programming because you can build beautiful parks and if you do not create an inviting space for the people who surround this park, people who might, for various reasons, might think that that park 'isn't for me, maybe it's for the downtown residents ...' so we're working very, very diligently on creating programming and making the people who actually fought for the park feel welcome, before that new wave of residents comes about."
After a few pictures, we were off to explore more of the vast park.
Because of the unique nature of the park, a LOT of thought went into the layout and design. Woods continued through the park as he explained the park's zones.
"The park is designed in three zones. We just came through the habitat zone, which is a recreation of the historic flood plain of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles river basin. Eventually, we hope to have a physical, hydrological connection to the river and we're working with the Annenberg Foundation on the water wheel project called, 'Bending the river back into the city' which hopefully in the next year or two, we'll actually bring water from the river into the park ... that was really a reaction to environmental concerns about making sure that this was in some way contributing to the revitalization of Los Angeles river.
As we get further down into the park, it's the urban node, which is more focused on the cultural historical elements of the park and the history of the city. This place was created as a central location for civic dialogue, historic remembrance, to look back on all the stories of Los Angeles, as I like to say, warts and all. We want to uncover all those things in that, what can we learn from the past moving forward, and also a place to capture the ongoing history because this is industrial, but it's been rezoned, adapted for reuse and we just see on the rise and rate all kinds of enormous changes."
The details didn't just stop at the layout, lots of planning and effort went into landscape and plant selection. Each plant and shrub were selected with a purpose.
"There was a very strong emphasis on natives and drought tolerants, obviously. Because of the drought. So, the zone we passed through, the habitat zone is 100% percent native. We're into this zone now, the great meadow, where you're seeing native transition into more ornamental and so what we tried to do here through design was instead of having to put structures to tell the story of the history of Los Angeles, we used plant materials."
Hopes for the future
After surpassing all of the obstacles thrown its way, the park will open to the public Saturday, which is Earth Day. And while those behind the park are excited to celebrate its success, they also have high hopes for what it will mean for future projects like it:
"This is probably the flagship in the departments urban strategic initiative, a new way forward. So, there's a lot riding on the success of this park and we're really hoping that there's a scalability so that this could be duplicated in other places throughout the state."
For more information on the park's grand opening, click here. And just a suggestion, if you're thinking about going there, the Metro Gold Line's Chinatown stop puts you right at park's front door.
To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.