Second South L.A. wetlands project makes debut

Feb. 9, 2012, 2:12 p.m.

Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry, above center, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of South L.A. Wetland Park, Perry's second wetlands project.

Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry welcomed city officials and stakeholders to the Thursday morning grand opening of South Los Angeles Wetland Park, a nine-acre urban oasis that's been in the pipeline since 2006.

The $19 million-plus development, at the intersection of 54th Street and Avalon Boulevard, stands where an MTA bus yard was once located, replacing it with an urban education center, passive recreational nature center and trees, shrubs and marsh plants. Eva Kandarpa Behrend, Perry's communications director, called it "the result of a vision that [Perry] had starting in 2001 when she was elected to office."

"This is a grassroots effort that has resulted in bringing nature back to our community," Perry said to a crowd of over 100. "What you see now is just the beginning of something that will … explode into something absolutely beautiful."

The press conference marked the handing over of the park to the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Mike Shull, the assistant general manager of the department, promised the park would be a "park into perpetuity." "It'll never be anything else," he said. "It'll be here for your children and your children's children."

Perry, commenting on how her ninth district is "one of the most dense communities" in Los Angeles, said getting this park was difficult. "Even when it looked like it wasn't going to happen, I said 'Keep moving ahead,'" she said. "This is a great space. We're standing here today and it's so much more now -- it's a reflection of the ingenuity" of everyone who played a role in bringing the park to fruition.

The plants in the park have yet to grow in, but Perry said that once they do, and once the animals start arriving, "it will look like it has been here forever."

"It's transformative," said the councilwoman. "I realize, as I look at these little kids who were here today -- they're going to have a chance at a different kind of a life, and maybe a life that they had never envisioned for themselves before. Maybe as they grew up, they always thought it was normal to have trash and abandoned buildings in their neighborhood, and I hope today gives them the hope to imagine something else now."

The next phase of construction will include a rail museum and community meeting space. South Los Angeles Wetland Park is also intended to assist in the city's storm water efforts for clean and healthy water by treating runoff -- the storm water that becomes polluted after it hits the streets and goes into the sewer. This is Perry's second wetlands project; in February of 2006, Augustus Hawkins nature park became the first human-made wetland in a dense urban area.

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