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Elysian Park Akin to Paradise

March 09, 1986|EVELYN De WOLFE

Motorists along the Golden State Freeway in the vicinity of Dodger Stadium will now drive by a brand-new redwood sign for permanent identification of Elysian Park.

The fitting, 100th birthday gift from Los Angeles Beautiful to the historic park was unveiled Friday with appropriate fanfare jointly shared with Arbor Day.

In 1886, when the city fathers and civic leaders gathered in similar fashion to dedicate the former Rock Quarry Hills as a city park in perpetuity, they borrowed the name from Homer's Elysian Plain, a land of happy souls after death or, to put it simply: Paradise!

As the last unbuilt parcel in central Los Angeles, except for two downtown parks, Elysian's 575.55 public acres have remained a focus of preservation and development. Part of the original pueblo lands at the tail end of the Santa Monica mountain range, the area was originally mined for building stone.

The selling of real estate was the motivating force of the 1880s in the planting of the first 37,000 eucalyptus trees throughout the park's mountainous and plain areas. And the positive results of that initial experiment helped convince the Los Angeles Horticultural Society that exotic shrubs from Australia, Africa and Latin America could grow there on the bare and rocky hills.

The frost-free zone above the flat, confined areas has enabled the Los Angeles Horticultural Society to plant many tropical and rare exotic trees there successfully since 1893.

In spite of a devastating fire in 1981 that ravaged hundreds of park acres, the vast and natural protected park environment remains an excellent, well-drained soil and is again more than 50% reforested through the efforts of volunteer groups.

Rangers are glad to point out to visitors on the Tree Walk some of the rare and unusually outstanding specimens still remaining--a list that has at least 67 notable varieties.

Elysian Park has 12 miles of hard-surfaced roads and eight miles of service roads that are used extensively by the L. A. P. D. and Police Academy trainees and for cross-country track events.

Happy Birthday, Elysian Park!

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