A 1.2-acre stretch of land along Ballona Creek is planned for a use that has been on the wish list of many residents in Del Rey: park space.

Residents have consistently stated that Del Rey lacks a sufficient number of parks for the community, particularly youth sports groups. A primary green space in the community has been Glen Alla Park, which has basketball and tennis courts, a universally accessible playground, and is the home of Del Rey’s new farmers market.

But another park area years in the making is now moving forward. The proposed Milton Street Park project would create a new linear park, approximately 45 feet wide and 1,000 feet long, on an undeveloped parcel south of Milton Street, between Mascagni Street and Westlawn Avenue. The property is owned by the Baldwin Hills Regional Conservation Authority.

The $3 million project would construct a pedestrian pathway, overlook areas to the nearby Ballona Creek, a 10-by-50-foot shade structure, new access gateway, entry stairs and an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible ramp. Other features will include fencing, native landscaping and irrigation, seating, retaining walls and interpretive panels on the local environment.

The Baldwin Hills authority is partnering on the plan with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which is dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space and parks, watershed lands, trails, and wildlife habitat.

As part of the project, the area along Milton will be converted into a “green street” by capturing and treating wet and dry weather runoff from the street and park through features called vegetated stormwater curb extensions.

The Baldwin Hills and Mountains Recreation authorities have installed a number of projects along the popular Ballona bike path with improvements such as new signs, staging areas, drinking fountains, benches, bike racks, and native plant landscaping. The groups view the Milton park as an added enhancement near the creek that could serve as an overlook area and rest stop for pedestrians and cyclists along the bike path.

“We think it will be a nice place to pull off to the side and have some additional passive recreation where people can just walk through,” said Ana Petrlic, project manager with the Mountains Recreation authority, which will maintain the site. “It will also provide habitat for the wildlife through the native plants that we’ll be installing.”

Planners had sought public feedback during some community meetings in 2008 but the Milton Street proposal and other projects were halted due to a state “funding freeze,” Petrlic said. After the project was reinitiated, a mitigated negative declaration was recently released and the MRCA is accepting public comments on the environmental review until Aug. 22.

Petrlic gave an updated presentation on the park at a meeting of the Del Rey Residents Association Aug. 6.

Aside from more green space and improving area aesthetics, the project will help improve water quality by capturing runoff and pollutants that can enter Ballona Creek with curb extensions and screen covers, according to MRCA. Approximately 50 new trees will be planted along Milton Street.

The site is also across the street from Marina Del Rey Middle School and can be used for outdoor classroom opportunities for its Marina Science Academy, with viewing platforms for bird watching and interpretive signs on the environment and wildlife, according to MRCA.

“We think this will be a really great amenity for kids to go out and be in a safe spot,” Petrlic told audience members, referring to the educational opportunities.

Some areas near the bike path have had incidents of crime in recent years, such as reported assaults, and some neighbors have expressed concerns on the need for adequate security.

Responding to resident questions about lights, Petrlic said no lighting will be installed for the pocket park, which will be open from sunrise to sunset. Speed bumps will be installed to slow down traffic in the area and a crosswalk to the park will also be provided.

Petrlic noted that a number of project features were included with community recommendations and her agency made sure to work with the community.

“We really did strive to listen to what the community wanted and said ‘this is their park,’” she said.

Resident Don Dombrowski said he has some concerns about potential security issues at night but thinks the project will be a great addition for Del Rey, which has limited park space.

“It will provide an open park concept and be a good place for kids and where seniors can relax,” he said.

While the Milton site covers a little more than an acre, other residents were also pleased that Del Rey can add to its open space footprint.

“Clearly, anything that increases the green belt in Del Rey is a positive,” said resident Chris Nevil, who has advocated for more youth sports fields.

Elizabeth Pollock, president of the Del Rey Residents Association, noted that the board released an outline in March 2010 on how to address “park poor” Del Rey.

“Any increase in parkland is a good thing for Del Rey,” she said. “Even after Milton Street Park is built, Del Rey will have only 11.3 acres of parks, even though there should be about 45 acres of parkland to serve the 30,000-plus residents of Del Rey.”

Petrlic explained that the Milton stretch is the largest plot of land along the bike path to be able to add more open space and the various improvements that will be provided.

“The goal is to continue the outdoor open space for the community and basically bring nature to the city,” she said.Construction is slated to begin next year.

Public comments on the project environmental review can be submitted until Aug. 22 to: Ana Petrlic, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, 570 West Avenue 26, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

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