The City of Los Angeles moved last week to improve the Ferndell section of Griffith Park, but a group of activists who had worked for the area's restoration say the action is too little, too late.
Three years ago the community group, called Friends of Ferndell, launched a well-organized fight to restore the deteriorating dell. The ferns were dying, the bridges over its stream were unsteady and the benches were in disrepair.
The organization spearheaded a drive to secure state funds to rehabilitate the small canyon, which borders Ferndell Avenue at the entrance to the park just north of Los Feliz Boulevard. A bond issue approved by voters in 1984 provided $500,000 for work on the dell.
The money has not been spent, the ferns are still dying, and Lenore Levan, who organized the community group, says many residents have become frustrated and lost interest.
"It gets very discouraging, particularly something that we had such high hopes for," Levan said. "We kept meeting and asking them to please spend the $500,000. I at one point was going to turn and say, 'Take the money back. If you can't use it, let some other place be helped. Let some other community benefit.' "
Last week, the city Recreation and Parks Department awarded a $389,999 contract to Hacienda Landscape of Los Angeles to refurbish Ferndell. Sheldon Jensen, assistant general manager of the department, said construction could start in 90 days.
The new plan is a scaled-down version of the original.
The first time the proposal was put up for bid, in 1985, the bids came back almost $1 million over budget, Jensen said. City architects rewrote the plans to cut costs.
An irrigation system to keep the canyon looking tropical was to be installed in trenches underground. The new system will be installed above ground.
Prefabricated bridges now will replace the steel and wood bridges in the dell. The earlier plan called for concrete bridges painted to resemble wood. City-issue trash cans will be used instead of cans specially designed to resemble tree stumps, Recreation and Parks landscape architect Virginia Hatley said.
"We will probably not be able to do everything we want to do," Jensen said. "It has been an abnormally long process, much longer than it should have been."
The city will pay a large portion of the bill. The costliest part of the project, the $150,000 irrigation system, will be bought by the city instead of the state.
In addition to construction fees, the $500,000 state grant covers the cost of architects' fees and a contingency fund.
Levan said membership in Friends of Ferndell has grown since 1984 and more than 60 residents are involved now. But the group is much less active now than in its first 18 months, she said.
At the group's urging, the Recreation and Parks Department in 1984 added 20 rangers at a cost of $400,000 to patrol the park. The group also persuaded the department to hire a landscape architect, who redesigned other sections of the park.
"The Friends of Ferndell came to us and told us that things were really deteriorating," Jensen said. "They were the key to how this whole thing got started. They got really actively involved with politicians on both the local and the state level. That's how it really became successful."
But the Friends of Ferndell said they are disappointed that the project--a relatively minor one for the city--is still barely off the ground. Levan said she is not confident it will ever be completed.
"I don't walk down in Ferndell that much anymore," she said. "I would like to, but I'm very hesitant to walk in it at this point. It was all such great plans, and it's just dragged on so long it's been terrible."