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Providing Parkland in the Valley : $10-million Hansen Dam project will revitalize a precious commodity

November 06, 1994

Parks are a precious and scarce commodity in the city of Los Angeles, so much so that municipally owned parkland accounts for just 5.4% of our metropolis's 464 square miles. It's even worse in the San Fernando Valley, with just 3.9% of 220.7 square miles set aside as city parks. The Valley falls far short of the Planning Department's park provision standard of one acre of parkland for every 1,000 residents.

But it's the East Valley that's really gotten the short shrift in these matters over the years. Although the unofficial boundary between the East Valley and the West Valley leaves two areas of roughly equal geographical size--119.3 square miles in the west, and 101.4 square miles in the east--more than 65% of the Valley's parkland is in the west.

That untenable discrepancy highlights the particular importance of last week's multimillion-dollar agreement between the city of Los Angeles and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both parties have agreed to share the cost of the long-awaited $10-million revitalization project at the Hansen Dam Recreation Center in Lake View Terrace.

For years, the former lake at the site was a major regional recreational attraction. But severe flooding in the area in the 1970s and 1980s choked the old 120-acre Holiday Lake and turned it into a silt-filled mess. The surrounding park soon fell into disrepair and became a haven for gangs and the homeless.

Some park supporters are disappointed about the shelving of a 1991 master plan that called for a new 70-acre lake. But City Councilman Richard Alarcon and others are right when they say that the city cannot afford a such a project now. The new recreation area will be considerably smaller, but is no less important because of that.

It will be limited to a new 1 1/2-acre swimming lake and a nine-acre boating and fishing lake, but it will include expanded equestrian trails and new picnic and parking area. This is possible because of the money from a 1992 voter-approved initiative and federal matching dollars.

The one area of concern we have is in the admission fee that may be levied to help pay for maintenance and security. Part of the area closest to the park has a poverty rate of 20% to 40%. Care must be given to ensure that this is a park that everyone will be able to afford and enjoy.

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