Opinion Marina View: Speak up for Public Parks

Posted January 27, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns
Burton Chace Park and other public green space is essential  to the wellbeing of marina residents Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Burton Chace Park and other public green space is essential
to the wellbeing of marina residents
Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

It’s time for residents to weigh in on the future of recreation and open space in Marina del Rey

By William Hicks
Los Angeles County is conducting an assessment of community needs and desires related to public park space in Marina del Rey.
On Saturday at Burton Chace Park, county officials will take input from the public about where more open space or recreational facilities are needed, how existing parks or facilities can be improved, and what sorts of new recreational opportunities people want.

This process, part of the ongoing countywide Comprehensive Park & Recreation Needs Assessment, is meant to help prioritize parks projects in the marina, including for future parks funding measures that could go before voters.

I must say that I’m impressed, especially considering the recent past includes cutting down 650 trees at Oxford Basin and greenlighting yet another hotel in the marina, this one on our last remaining parcel of undeveloped land (Parcel 9U at Via Marina and Tahiti Way).

Now it’s our turn to do our homework, show up and speak out, because parks are essential for quality of life for both humans and wildlife. And with all of the beautiful weather we have to enjoy them, the Los Angeles area could do better when it comes to public parks.

According to a report by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, the city of Los Angeles — unincorporated county land, including Marina del Rey, wasn’t part of the study — has 36,177 acres of publicly owned and operated park space, which breaks down to about 9.3 acres per 1,000 residents.

Per capita, that’s a lot better than hyper-dense New York (4.6 acres per 1,000) but well behind Oakland (14.9 acres per 1,000) and Minneapolis (12.6 acres per 1,000). But it’s in spending on public parks that Los Angeles falls behind. L.A.’s public parks spending breaks down to about $82 per resident ($77 adjusted for cost of living), versus New York’s
$162 per resident ($147 adjusted), Oakland’s $140 per resident ($119 adjusted) and Minneapolis’ $230 per resident ($219 adjusted).

Marina del Rey has about 9,000 residents and three public parks: Burton Chace Park (10 acres), Yvonne B. Burke Park (8 acres) and Aubrey E. Austin Jr. Park (1 acre). That’s about 2.1 acres per 1,000 residents. There’s a lot of research out supporting the notion that having a connection to nature is integral to the physical, psychological and social health of communities.

That’s why, in addition to more public parks, I would love to see more initiative by city and county officials to protect and expand public areas that are “park-like.” In terms of Marina del Rey, I mean the trees that line Via Marina and wooded residential areas such as the Mariners Village Apartments.

Ideally, people wouldn’t have to go to a park to be in nature. Rather, they could simply step outside their front and back doors or onto their balconies. This kind of connection with nature is what’s offered by spaces like Mariners Village, which could lose its mature trees under a pending redevelopment proposal. Landscape design students should study the place, including those just down the street at Otis and LMU.

An L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation flyer states: “We’ve taken stock of what we have — the existing parks, recreation facilities and open space — and what kind of shape they’re in. Now we need to know what you want. … Come to our workshop. Together, we’ll create a list of park priorities for our community.”

This is not a time to be apathetic or cynical. People who don’t vote or participate in the public dialogue like to tell themselves and others that their efforts wouldn’t make a difference, but that’s just an excuse for not getting involved.

The workshop is from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Burton Chace Park Community Room, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. For more information about the countywide Comprehensive Park & Recreation Needs Assessment, visit lacountyparkneeds.org.

William Hicks lives in Marina del Rey. Reach him at williamhicks.columnist@gmail.com.


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