Eighty-three parking spots on nearly an acre of asphalt have been removed to create a new Beach Green park that will stop pollutants before they enter Santa Monica Bay.

A celebration will be held for the opening of Beach Green from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 18th.

In announcing the opening, the City of Santa Monica has called Beach Green its “newest eco-forward feat.”

Located at 2400 Barnard Way, Beach Green is more than a pretty patch of grass, says Santa Monica communications coordinator Libby Carlson.

In addition to stopping pollutants before they enter Santa Monica Bay, Beach Green will also reduce heat gain that would have been generated by the paved parking, Carlson says. The turf is irrigated with a solar-powered system and is planted with Netlawn so it can accommodate cars when necessary, which will be about six days per year.

Both the new turf area and the adjacent asphalt area will be closed to vehicles for most of the year, creating a protected area for children learning to ride tricycles and bikes, scooters and more.

This pilot project is primarily funded by a Clean Beaches Initiative Proposition 13 grant from the State Water Resources Control Board.

In 2002, the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission proposed the greening of the beach lots, identified this project as a commission priority and advocated to the City Council on its behalf.

With City Council support, the city successfully applied for grant funding from the state’s 2003 Consolidated Grants Coastal Non-Point Source Control Program. As part of the grant, water quality in the area will be monitored to determine Beach Green’s impact.

It is anticipated that Beach Green will demonstrate how to harvest and infiltrate runoff from the parking lot. As runoff passes through the soil, pollutants are treated through natural chemical and biological processes.

By preventing, at the source, runoff pollutants from reaching the ocean, water quality in the bay will be improved and marine beneficial uses protected, Carlson said. Beach Green may provide a model for similar projects along the California Coast, she added.

Several sites along Santa Monica State Beach were considered during a study of feasibility of the project. Working from a detailed analysis of four years worth of parking data, the lot at 2400 Barnard Way was identified as the best location for the project.

A community design process led by city staff and Mark Tessier Landscape Architects began in May last year. Building upon the continued support of the Recreation and Parks Commission, the California Coastal Commission approved the project in July and construction began in October.

The city suggests that attendees at the opening celebration Sunday, May 18th, bring picnic baskets, lawn chairs, blankets, sunscreen and water for a picnic. There will be activities for children.

Speakers expected at the opening include Santa Monica Mayor Herb Katz; Fran Diamond, chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board; Noah Garrison, National Resources Defense Council project attorney; and Susan Cloke, chair of the City of Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission.

Free bike/stroller valet service will be available. Fee-based parking is available in Beach Lot 4S at 2030 Ocean Ave. Beach Green is served by Big Blue Bus lines 1, 2, and the MiniBlue Tide Ride.

Beach Green is presented by the City of Santa Monica Departments of Community and Cultural Services, Environmental and Public Works Management, Community Maintenance and Planning & Community Development, in partnership with the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission and the California State and Los Angeles Regional Water Resources Control Board.