Let’s be honest. South LA is pretty urban. But this 9-acre park is a diamond in the rough.
The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park is neatly tucked into two busy thoroughfares, Avalon Boulevard and Sand Pedro Street, in the South Park neighborhood of South LA. Next to it, are two-story multi-family homes on 55th street. On 54th Street sits the $171 million Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School, which the Los Angeles Unified School District built in 2011.
The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park opened in 2012 after being introduced by Jan Perry, the former district council member for district 9. In fact, the park is also named in honor of her. You might remember her as the councilmember who supported legislation to limit the number of fast food locations in South LA.
Just under 10 years ago, this park was an underutilized bus maintenance and rail yard owned by the MTA. Councilmember Jan Perry championed turning this old lot into a sustainable wetlands park in in the mid 2000s.
Why a wetlands park? This project was built to satisfy the Proposition O mandate, which Californians voted for in 2004. Proposition O is a Clean Water Bond that authorized $500 million of funds to increase water recycling efforts throughout the state. Before 2004, California had very little sustainability—or water recycling—in lakes and beaches, which were both heavily polluted with trash and bacteria at the time.
With the support of the heavy hitting Proposition O funding, this 9-acre space underwent a $26 million renovation, effectively turning it into a wetland space with three different habitats: Marsh, Riparian, and Upland.
One of the most notable features of this park is its water treatment system that treats up to 14,000 gallons of stormwater runoff. If you’re wondering what this giant 81,000 square-foot building is, it houses the water treatment system that recycles the water in the lakes. The recently renovated Magic Johnson Park in Willowbrook has a similar system.
For the residents of South Park and South LA, the park serves as a serene walking trail, where the bustling sounds of the road are deafened by the peaceful water and towering trees. Community Members enjoy looping trails, observing bridges, new picnic areas, and educational signage.
I casually see runners pacing along the sandy trails, and families walking at leisurely paces. There are a variety of plants found across the three habitats in the park. And if you have children, they can download the Agents of Discovery App to explore this park with augmented reality games and learning tools. There’s also plenty of parking, which is always a plus in Los Angeles.
Now this isn’t first the wetlands park in South LA. In 2006, the city built the Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park less than 1.5 miles from this location.
The South LA Wetlands Park is one of my favorite parks to visit in South LA, especially in the early morning. It’s big enough, super peaceful, and a joy for nearby families. And it’s refreshing to see projects like this in the dense, urban spaces of South LA.