5 places to take a walk in South LA

Sept. 24, 2012, 9:33 a.m.

The recently-opened South Los Angeles Wetland Park is one place southsiders can go to take a 30-minute stroll. (José Martinez/OnCentral)

If you're looking for a good way to get some physical activity into your daily routine, there are two solutions right underneath you.

(Your legs. I'm talking about your legs.)

While gyms, zumba or triathlons are all great ways to break a sweat, there's a less glamorous way to get your daily dose of exercise that's just as good: walking.

"Walking is great exercise," said Dr. Felix Aguilar, the chief medical officer of South Central Family Health Center. "It really is. We need to be active, and we need to sweat on a regular basis. It's important for people to do that."

A brisk walk is an easy way to do that. But Aguilar said walking, say, from your couch to the bathroom does not count. (Even with the return trip.) To get the full health benefits of walking, you need to do it as exercise: at a quick pace and for a long period of time.

Aguilar recommends walking about 30 minutes a day, which will cover about one-and-a-half miles for most people. And, he adds, there are very few valid reasons not to walk.

"In general, people should walk as much as they can," Aguilar said.

But he does acknowledge barriers for folks who want to walk – like location. Where is an aspiring walker to go, especially in a dense, pedestrian-unfriendly area like South L.A.?

I roamed the southside to find out, and came up with five solid walking paths. In my list, I included the distance, and then how many laps you should do to fulfill Aguilar's recommendations. (I rounded up, so you'll always be surpassing a-mile-and-a-half.) I also talked to police to get their thoughts about the area's safety. Finally, I added a few thoughts of my own about each of the paths.

You'll have to let me know if I missed anything. For starters, though, here are five great places to take a walk in South Los Angeles.


South Los Angeles Wetland Park
Near the intersection of Avalon Boulevard and 54th Street

View Walk South LA: Los Angeles Wetland Park in a larger map

Distance of one lap: About 0.45 miles

How many laps you should do (at least): 4

What police say: LAPD Captain Jorge Rodriguez of Newton Division says his officers "don't have a lot of problems in that area." There have been a few cases of vandalism, one involving the sprinklers and another involving "some kids jumping into the water in the wetland." Rodriguez says that's not happening anymore, probably because there's no water.

But it's not a bad area, he said. In fact, they're trying to convert an abandoned building adjacent to the wetland to an activity center for Newton's Police Activity League and the surrounding community.

What OnCentral says: How enjoyable the recently-opened park is may depend on the weather. On wet days, it'll be too muddy to do much walking; on hot, dry days, there's not a whole lot of shade where you can take refuge. Also, it can get dusty and a little stinky. But if the weather's right, there's a rugged beauty to this path, one that's only highlighted by its stark contrast to its urban surroundings. (It used to be a bus yard. Then it was an abandoned bus yard for a while.) Its walking/jogging path is nice and flat, too, so you can maintain a brisk pace and sustain it.

Bonus: It's going to get a lot more beautiful. Also, it'll store and clean millions of gallons of rainwater.


Maya Angelou High School
Near the intersection of San Pedro and 53rd streets

View Walk South LA: Maya Angelou High School in a larger map

Distance of one lap: About 0.83 miles

How many laps you should do (at least): 2

What police say: This walking path is right next door to the wetland, noted Rodriguez, so his comments about the area's safety were pretty much the same. "We have poured a lot of resources into the area," he said. "We've stepped up our police patrols in the area as much as we can, specifically in the morning when school comes in and the afternoon when school lets out."

Newton has also partnered up with the L.A. Unified School District police to "provide safe passage and security" for kids on their way to and from school.

What OnCentral says: This is a nice, unbroken stretch of fairly wide sidewalk that's lined with a good amount of vegetation. If the dustiness or ruggedness of the wetland doesn't appeal to you, go 30 seconds to the north and try this path on for size. This area is also close to a hub of the Trust for Public Land's South L.A. green alleys effort, and when that's done, this path will only be longer and prettier.

Bonus: Take a lesson and some inspiration from the Maya Angelou kids – you'll walk right by the school's track and basketball courts. They go hard.


Roosevelt Park
Near the intersection of Nadeau Street and Graham Avenue

View Walk South LA: Roosevelt Park in a larger map

Distance of one lap: About 0.86 miles

How many laps you should do (at least): 2

What police say: Sergeant Jeff Martin with the Century Sheriff Station says Roosevelt Park is "absolutely" a safe place to go for a walk, noting that there are always a lot of people out. Martin also said there are always a "lot of units in the area," and that sheriff's officers do daily checks of the area's parks, including Roosevelt. But that's during the day.

"At night, it can be a different story," said Martin. "You have to watch your surroundings like you would in any neighborhood. But the police presence is still there."

What OnCentral says: Go here if you want a nice long stroll with plenty going on in the background – kids are playing, some folks are exercising, others have set up card tables. It's a pretty long path, too, so it won't get too repetitive – two times around and you're done with Aguilar's recommendation. Why not walk a couple more laps, though?

Bonus: Brush up on your South L.A. graffiti, then check out the tagging near the train tracks on Graham Avenue and see what you can glean. Please be sure the train is not coming, though, and don't add anything to what's already there.


Hoover Recreation Center
Near the intersection of Hoover Street and Adams Boulevard

View Walk South LA: Hoover Recreation Center in a larger map

Distance of one lap: About 0.24 miles

How many laps you should do (at least): 7

What police say: Sergeant Eric Holyfield, an assistant watch commander for LAPD's Southwest Division, says this area "can go either way." It's close to USC and Mount St. Mary's, but there's also a gang "relatively close." A lot of people use this space to work out, though, he said, usually in the early evening hours between 5 and 7 p.m. Holyfield said this part of town is "relatively" safe.

What OnCentral says: This is the shortest of the paths, so it'll probably be the most boring, especially at seven laps. The park has a cozy feel, though, in part because it's nestled into the corner of Hoover and Adams. Also, if you're getting restless with just walking, take a break and hop on some of the freestanding fitness equipment. Be prepared to wait in line, though – it's popular.

Bonus: Like I said: It's like going to the gym, but free. (The lines are the same, though.)


Adams Boulevard Loop
Adams Boulevard between Hoover and Figueroa streets

View Walk South LA: Adams Boulevard in a larger map

Distance of one lap: 1.04 miles

How many laps you should do (at least): 2

What police say: Holyfield says despite its proximity to Hoover Recreation Center, the Adams Boulevard walking route is "probably a little bit nicer."

What OnCentral says: First, the downside: You've got to cross the street twice – once at Adams and Figueroa and again at Adams and Hoover – and waiting for the stoplight can be annoying if you've found your stride. The upside: It's really pretty. Trees line almost the entire street, and the buildings on either side aren't hard on the eyes, either. Until you hit Figueroa and Hoover – and if you block out the heavy traffic going down Adams – it's almost got a suburban feel that's pretty foreign to most of South Central. Almost.

Bonus: Wander the serene grounds of St. Vincent De Paul Church (northwest corner of Adams and Figueroa).


Where do you walk? Leave a comment below, tweet OnCentral or email me to share!

All photos by José Martinez.

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