Grass and trees are only the beginning. There are extras like exercise trails, duck feeding, specially designed play structures, classes and special events, annually drawing tens of thousands of residents to the San Fernando Valley's parks.
On a recent weekend, 30,000 people attended Northridge Park's 25th Anniversary Reunion and Family Festival. The event also served to kick off Recreation and Parks Month.
Following is a sampling of Valley parks--some operated by the city and some by the state--that offer something extra. General information about these or other local parks can be obtained by calling Valley Region Headquarters at (818) 989-8188.
Chatsworth Park South and Recreation Center, 22360 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, (818) 341-6595. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Also known as Santa Susana Mountain Park, this 84-acre park contains a number of hiking trails, which traverse the area's unusual topography.
Boulders sculpted by the elements into odd shapes are everywhere. Docent-led nature-history walks start at the Visitor's Center in the recreation building every Sunday at 9 a.m., except in August and September. Invitation-to-explore hikes for families take place every second Sunday.
For hikes, bring water, a snack, a hat, and wear hiking shoes. The Visitor's Center contains maps, pictures, and artifacts of historical interest. Horseback riders can use the newly opened Old Stage Coach Equestrian Trail. Facilities include bike and skate paths, a children's play area, and plentiful picnic areas with barbecues.
Northridge Park and Community Center, 10058 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 349-7341. This 24-acre regional park has a fitness trail with 10 scientifically designed stations complete with exercise equipment and instructional signs.
Another special feature is Devonshire House. Converted from a home, it contains a ceramics studio and dance studio, and is used for meetings and weddings. Other amenities include picnic areas with barbecues, a child's play area, a Tiny Tot Lot with structures scaled especially for small children, ball diamonds, tennis courts, volleyball court, and a swimming pool. This park offers summer theater for children ages 7 to 21, as well as preschool and latchkey programs. A crafts show is scheduled for November.
O'Melveny Park, 17300 Sesnon Blvd., Granada Hills, (818) 368-5019. The second largest park in the city (after Griffith Park), O'Melveny's 714 acres are tucked away in Bee Canyon in the Santa Susana Mountains.
Seasonal wildflowers, views of the Southland from 2,771-foot Mission Point, and lots of unspoiled natural terrain are the park's attractions. A self-guided nature trail, as well as miles of hiking and bridle trails, make the mountains accessible to visitors. A stalactite trail begins behind the O'Melveny house in the developed area of the park and ends in a natural stalactite formation. The unusual sight can be reached from the nature trail also. The developed area of the park contains picnic areas, including one for equestrians.
Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys, (818) 343-4143. This park is located at the east end of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area. Cricket fields are open Saturdays and Sundays from April to November, noon to 6 p.m. An archery range is open sunrise to sunset, with free instruction provided Saturdays at 10 a.m. John Smith of the Woodley Park Archery Assn. can be reached at (818) 782-6445.
A model airplane flying field is also on the grounds of the park. For information about instruction, call (818) 881-1058. Another special attraction is a fitness course. Visitors also can enjoy picnic facilities and a children's play area with wood-climbing structures. Also in the park is the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant and Japanese Garden. Reservations for a guided tour are made by calling (818) 989-8166 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Reseda Park, 18411 Victory Blvd., Reseda, (818) 881-3882. One of the special features of this 36-acre park, established in the '30s, is a lake containing ducks and geese. Fishing programs take place during the first four weeks in March. There is a free one-day fly-fishing school Monday and a fishing clinic for youth in the fall that costs $6 for eight weeks.
Reseda Park contains a wider variety of trees than any other park in the city, including groves of redwoods and torrey pines, and specimens of myrtle, cork oak, sycamore, and many others. Picnic areas and a children's playground make Reseda Park a popular destination for families with young children. The Recreation Center offers many classes year-round.
Los Encinos State Historic Park, 16756 Moorpark St., Encino, (818) 784-4849. Visitors may feed the ducks in the picturesque lake at this five-acre park (duck food is available for 25 cents a bag), enjoy a picnic, and take a tour of the nine-room restored and furnished 1849 adobe Ranch House.