If you’ve driven down Fernwood Avenue in Lynwood, you have no doubt noticed the beautiful Ricardo Lara Linear Park on the south side of the street.
You’re not the only one who has noticed.
The Park is one of five urban parks worldwide that is under consideration for the 2018 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Open Space Award. Two ULI judges recently visited Lynwood to learn more about the park that is one mile long and only 50 feet wide.
Lynwood, a city of nearly 80,000, simply doesn’t have very many parks. In fact, long-time Lynwood Recreation and Community Services Director Mark Flores told the judges that Lynwood is a “park desert” and that a 2016 Los Angeles County Audit showed Lynwood has a very high park need.
The city had to be creative, given its lack of open space.
“This area, right under the north end of the 105 Freeway was a mess,” City Council member Maria Santillan-Beas told the jurors. “People were dumping junk and the area was an eyesore. We knew we could do better.”
The city did just that.
For just over $5-million and in less than two years the “eyesore” was transformed into an urban park with nearly 500 trees and one thousand bushes and plants. The amenities include a dog park, fitness apparatus, a playground, a community garden and an ecological wonderland that boasts many native plants and a catch basin that is saving, cleaning and diverting thousands of gallons of water every year into the nearby L.A. River.
Senator Ricardo Lara, for whom the park was named, also spoke with the jurors and educated them on the health issues facing families in Lynwood, where childhood obesity, asthma and cancer rates are all high.
“This park addresses many community needs, including severe park inequity in our part of Los Angeles County,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “By using Proposition 84 funds to efficiently and creatively convert existing land into a beautiful public open space, Lynwood has built an outstanding example of how to use public dollars effectively for the benefit of the community.”
After making their presentation to the judges, Lynwood officials took the judges on a walking tour of the park which was build for about one-third the coast of what most cities would spend on the same property.
The judges seemed impressed and also wondered about how the city would be able to maintain this unique piece of land, which Flores said is being managed well by the city’s Public Works Department
Four other urban parks have been nominated for the award. The parks are in Changsha, China, Houston, Texas, Madrid, Spain and Fall River Massachusetts.
Judges will meet next month and decide the winner, which will receive $10,000. The finalists will be honored at the ULI Fall Meeting in Boston, October 8-11.
Meanwhile, city officials are not resting on their laurels. Plans are already underway to create a bike path next to the park.