Silver Strand residents celebrate the grand opening of Via Dolce Park

Story by Gary Walker • Photos by Maria Martin

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Marina del Rey resident Dan Levin watched his 7-year-old daughter Ava and 5-year-old son Jake scamper up and down the new blue playground slide at Via Dolce Park on Saturday, just minutes after the ribbon cutting for West Los Angeles’ first new public park in years.

“This is great. They love it. We’re going to be here a lot,” Levin said, echoing the sentiments of many parents who brought their children to enjoy the new playground equipment in the more than 6,500-square-foot park in the Silver Strand.

But none of this would have happened if not for a visionary pair of Silver Strand residents. The two formerly vacant city parcels along Grand Canal had been slated as an open space “static park” (basically native plants, landscaping and two benches), but Eric Beane and Fred Karlson saw a broader, more active use for the land.

“We met with Councilman [Mike] Bonin when he took office to offer him our idea of what we could do with this land. We have a lot of kids in our neighborhood and we thought, ‘Why not create a place where kids could have a place to come and play?’” said Karlson, the president of the Silver Strand Marina Homeowners Association.

Before the park opened, Beane said neighborhood children would play at Marina (Mother’s) Beach or parks farther away.

“Now we have one right in the middle of our neighborhood,” he said.

Under the watchful eyes of their parents and guardians, children explored the spiral slide and wall climber and bounced on the multicolored rubber playground surfacing.

Susan Andrews took her 3-year-old goddaughter Gracie to the park, where the toddler immediately headed for the climbing walls.

“She really loves it,” said Andrews, who lives across the street on Via Dolce. “We’ve been watching it being built for years, and now it’s finally here.”