Believe it or not, South LA is home to several large and beautiful parks. And this hidden, 20-year-old gem near the Florence-Firestone neighborhood is no different.
Nestled on the corner of Slauson and Compton avenues, Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park is surrounded by fantastic masonry, ironwork, and towering trees. Inside is a tranquil 8.5-acre green space that holds windy and sometimes hilly trails, a wetlands area, and several picnic benches. This isn’t a park for play–in fact, there are no hoops or official soccer fields. It’s a park to feel, relax, and experience.
But what’s the history behind this park?
Getting to Know the Park
In December of 2000, the City of Los Angeles unveiled its most recent urban transformation, the 8.5-acre Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park. Before this area was a nature park, the City of Los Angeles used this site as a sewer pipe storage yard for roughly 90 years. The transformation began in the mid-90s, and, with the design help of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the total renovations cost around $4.5 million.
I don’t know if you all see a trend here, but all of the great parks in South LA that I’ve covered so far–Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park and the South Los Angeles Wetlands–are former industrial sites that were converted into public greenspaces. While these spaces are beautiful, they are also stark reminders of being on the south side of town.
Waste aside, the park is a namesake Augustus F. Hawkins who, in 1963, became the first black congressman west of the Mississippi River. Hawkins was known for his progressive views and staunch support for educational reform and the Civil Rights Movement. Holding office for over 58 years, and never losing an election, Hawkins was the direct predecessor for congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Off the Beaten Path
Namesake aside, this park literally pulls something from everything. The hilly terrain and lush meadows are entirely man-made. In fact, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy bulldozed dirt from the landslides along Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway and landscaped it throughout the park. And the rocks in the artificial wetlands were donated from the headwaters of the Los Angeles River.
Throughout the park, you’ll find several serene views, low-level hiking trails, flowing water, and a few private sitting areas nested behind trees, off the beaten path.
The park is also home to a homey nature center, but the building and its exhibits are temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
My wife and I really enjoyed this park. We spent nearly an hour walking around and admiring the flowers, trees, and thoughtful paths. Several families were present, and everyone seemed to be at peace. It’s a great reminder that many families in South LA enjoy parks and greenery like anywhere else. And we’re happy to have it.
Though, while you’re here, you’re minutes away from Pollos Asados Al Carbón El Güero, one of our favorite restaurants that we reviewed on Slauson Avenue.
This park will be on my regular visit list for leisurely strolls and destress days. Do you have a favorite park in South LA? List it down in the comments for everyone to discover for themselves.