Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sunday in the Park with George

George is the snowy egret. Not that he knows that. Nor does anyone else, I suppose, since I just made his name up.

The park is Averill Park in San Pedro, where you can see lots of wild life: dozens of ducks, a few geese, egrets, phoebies and other birds, skateboarders, butterflies, and wedding parties arranging themselves near the waterfall, stone bridge, fauna or meadows to pose for photographers.

Found a 1923 article in the Los Angeles Times that mentions this park--says its 12 acres "affords a splendid view of the Bay of San Pedro from its commanding position at the head of the beautiful Vista del Oro section."

The Superintendent of Parks, one Frank Shearer, was credited with giving Averill park touches of "rustic beauty."

A 1933 piece about the spending of over $1 million on parks mentions the waterfalls at Averill--pictured 80 years later at right.

There's a picture in the 1933 paper, but online it doesn't look like much--just enough of a sketchy outline to confirm that it's the same waterfalls.

The 1933 article reports that the million dollars was being spent to put  nearly 1400 men to work full time making improvements to the parks, and the project was expected to last three years. This was during the Depression, of course, and the money was part of a $5 million city bond issue, aimed at increasing employment in many areas.

So picnic grounds were added to Elysian Park, a grotto and rock terraces went to Fern Dell, Victory Van Owen Park and Reseda Park were created, the Arroyo Seco got more channels, etc. etc. Dozens of parks are mentioned, all over LA.

And even the rocks and bricks from defunct miniature golf courses were repurposed in the parks, becoming the bases of the waterfalls and new, decorative retaining walls. Waste not, want not.

Sounds like about a fifth of the money went to Griffith Park, where miles of bridle trails were added, roads were paved, and thousands of new trees and shrubs were planted. Not sure about the figure though because apparently the estate of Col. Griffith contributed funds as well.

But as you can see from these pictures, the waterfowl in the compact oasis of Averill Park are thriving. Children were racing around, squealing and playing, men were barbecuing and telling tall tales, and the cameras were clicking and whirring. Just the right antidote for the news . . . I wonder if we could start a movement, forcing folks to balance the time they spend listening to the news with hours spent in the city's parks. Just a thought.

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