By Dennis J. Freeman
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The absence of green spaces is apparent so the 19-acre oasis that surrounds the South Park Recreation Center is considered a longtime city jewel. Now that jewel is getting an extensive — and expensive — makeover.
It’s going to cost an estimated $12 million for the city of Los Angeles to restore the park’s irrigation system, improve the security lighting, implement a fitness facility that comes with modern equipment and new walkways, picnic tables and benches.
The historic 119-year-old park, which is located between San Pedro Street and Avalon Boulevard and between 49th and 51st streets, first opened in 1899. A majestic backdrop of palms trees line the entrance to the park but today, South Park is basically a shell of what it once was.
Age, neighborhood apathy and withering weather conditions throughout the years have taken its toll. That dynamic is changing.
Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price is determined to put his foot forward in seeing the park gets restored to what it used to be.
On April 12, Price and staff from the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks and Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering, held a ground-breaking ceremony to kick off the second phase of the proposed project. Complete renovation is expected sometime next year, which would be the 120th anniversary of South Park.
“It’s our continuing desire to improve the quality of life here for residents in South Los Angeles,” Price said. “Our renovations of South Park are going to be significant and we hope it will create more opportunities for families, young people and seniors to enjoy these things.”
Price added that renovating the park is an essential component to upgrading the quality of life for the neighborhood and community.
“It’s very important,” Price said. “Open space is at a real premium, especially here in the Ninth District. This is one of the larger parks in our city. It was one of the first parks in the city. We want to bring back some of the grandeur that was part of its founding, but more importantly, we’re creating an opportunity for our families to be able to enjoy some open space in the city.”
Aaron Shaw, director of South Park Recreation Center, is excited about the expected transformation of the recreational and playground facility.
“This is a huge project,” Shaw said. “As the councilman mentioned, South Park, being one of the oldest parks in the city, there’s memories how the park, during the days of the hustle and bustle, there was a lot of activity in the park. We’re going to present a new image of South Park, and with that image, we hope to take the park in a new direction.”