The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan for additional improvements along the Ballona Creek bicycle trail in an effort to enhance users’ experience and the connectivity to other trails.

The supervisors voted Oct. 11 to expand the scope of trail improvements for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s Ballona Creek to Parks Connection Loop Project, a section of the 13-mile-long Park to Playa Trail, which connects a number of area parks.

The expansion will allow for additional amenities such as decorative gates, native planting and signage on portions of the trail between the Baldwin Hills area and the ocean.

The scope of the project was expanded from decorative gates, interpretive, wayfinding and connection route signage and artwork at three trail gateways to improvements along the entire Park to Playa connection route.

The board additionally voted to award a grant amendment to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for the expanded improvements to the Ballona Creek bicycle trail. The project will be funded with $700,000 in previously allocated funds from the Second Supervisorial District and $150,000 in environmental enhancement program funds.

The majority of the funds will be used to develop a half-mile-long greenway with native grasses along Ballona Creek just west of the 405 Freeway in Mar Vista, said Sharita Moon, spokeswoman for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“This effort is consistent with the supervisor’s larger commitment to green the creek and make it more of a pleasant and naturalized place to recreate and enjoy wildlife,” Moon said.

“It also ties into our larger ‘Park to Playa’ effort – the first regional multi-use trail in the Second District to connect the beach to Baldwin Hills through Ballona Creek.”

Dash Stolarz, spokeswoman for the MRCA, said the expanded project scope will allow for upgrades to make the trail more usable and fun for the public and easier to access other parks outside of Ballona on their bicycles.

The MRCA, which is dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parkland, is excited to be able to offer trail users the chance to take advantage of various amenities as they travel between the mountains and the beach, said Barbara Romero, the chief of urban projects for MRCA.

“We think it’s an exciting opportunity because at the end of the day, users just want to have an easy experience when they want to access other trails,” she said.

At public workshops on the Park to Playa Feasibility Study, attendees offered some recommendations for the Ballona Creek path, including landscaping flowers like poppies, and ensuring separation of bicyclists and pedestrians on the path.

The expanded scope of the Ballona project comes after the MRCA implemented a new signage and public safety enhancement program along the Ballona trail early this summer. The project included 12 coordinated, interpretive exhibits, 14,000 linear feet of new bike path striping and seven coordinated Ballona Creek identification signs.

Other improvements included new gateways to the trail and bike path at Sepulveda Boulevard, Inglewood Boulevard, McConnell Avenue and Centinela Avenue that feature artist-designed decorative gates, native plant landscaping, seating, drinking fountains and bike racks.

Officials with the authority say these improvements have dramatically modernized the bike path, encouraged increased recreational use and enhanced the neighborhoods in which they have been developed.

All of the gateways now include newly installed interpretive signs. The signs, which were extensively researched with assistance from local project partners and experts on the creek’s history, provide information about local birds, native plants, fish, the watershed and the history of the creek.

In addition, aerial locator maps at key locations help to identify area parks, bike routes, various access points to the bike path and other information about how to help keep Ballona Creek and the Santa Monica Bay clean.

Romero noted that with the grant funding, the MRCA will begin to look at what other access points along the trail could use similar improvements.

Del Rey resident Howard Hackett, an avid user of the Ballona bicycle path, said the recent improvements have made it a more pleasant experience to ride the trail and the exhibits can help inform people about the creek.

“With the new signs put up, people now know this is an access to the creek. That signage all helps,” he said.

Kent Strumpell, a Westchester resident and member of the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, concurred that the new improvements have enhanced the trail and encourage more people to use it.

“It makes it more pleasant and it informs people as well with the interpretive exhibits,” Strumpell said.

He noted that wayfinding signage is important for cyclists and users of the trail, particularly on the Ballona path, which is somewhat isolated from the fabric of the city, to alert them to the destinations they are seeking.

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