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L.A. Finishes First Phase of Refurbishing at Fern Dell

June 29, 1989|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

Five years after community activists launched a fight to restore the Fern Dell section of Griffith Park, the initial phase of a Los Angeles-supervised refurbishment project has been completed. But city officials acknowledge that the effort has dragged and that a significant portion of the repair work has not begun.

This month, 14 prefabricated bridges were installed, replacing steel and wood bridges that had become unsteady and unsafe. Railings were installed along the footpaths in the canyon that borders Fern Dell 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 the work on Fern Dell. The state funds were allocated after a community group, Friends of Fern Dell, spearheaded a drive for money to restore the canyon.

New Irrigation System

Still to be installed is a new $150,000 irrigation system. The ferns planted throughout the mile-long stream bed and canyon have been dying in recent years for lack of water.

The state funds do not include the cost of installing the system. That will be paid by the city, but it is unclear when the complex of aboveground pipes will actually be installed, said Joel Breitbart, assistant general manager for planning and development for the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.

The repairs have been delayed several times.

The first time the proposal was up for bid, in 1985, the bids came in almost $1 million over budget, Breitbart said. City architects rewrote the plans to cut costs.

Then in December, 1987, the Department of Recreation and Parks awarded a $389,999 contract to Hacienda Landscape of Los Angeles to refurbish Fern Dell, and city officials said construction could start almost immediately.

Safety Assessment

The work was held up for more than a year when inspectors at the Department of Building and Safety requested a safety assessment of each bridge and each bridge abutment in the dell.

Installation of the bridges finally began earlier this spring.

"There's been a feeling, and justifiably so, that this has taken a long time, and certainly it has," Breitbart said. "Obviously, it could have gone better."

Lenore Levan, who organized Friends of Fern Dell, said she is disappointed that the project--a relatively minor one for the city--has yet to be completed.

"Since we did get the money and it was started because the community was interested, it really should be finished, and it shouldn't take five years to be done," she said.

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