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Accenting the Positive in Exposition Park

Prop. EE: Passage of the bond measure would improve, repair and add to the popular facilities already there.

October 30, 1998|ROBERT H. TIMME | Robert H. Timme is dean of USC's School of Architecture

Throughout the world, every great city has developed and maintains a park at its center. New York has Central Park; Paris, the Luxembourg Gardens; and London, Kensington Gardens. This need to preserve, redefine and represent nature is as old as civilization itself. It is a constant reminder that humans, regardless of their urban sophistication, are creatures of the natural environment.

Los Angeles is one of those great cities that has at its heart a beautiful garden: Exposition Park. Since moving to Los Angeles almost three years ago, I have become more and more interested in the character and history of this remarkable place. Established in 1872 as a privately owned racetrack and fairgrounds, the park was purchased jointly by the state, county and city in 1889 with the Los Angeles County Historical and Art Museum being constructed in 1910. The museum grew and eventually divided into what is now the Los Angeles County Art Museum on Wilshire Boulevard and the County Museum of Natural History in the park.

Since the difficult economic times of the early 1990s, the park has undergone a rebirth, a transformation into a place of recreation and education for not just the inner city but for all of the citizens of the Los Angeles region. On a weekend stroll through the rose garden, one will most certainly encounter brides and grooms being photographed with their wedding parties. A Mariachi band might be playing in one of the pavilions. And of course, one will see those beautiful roses, thousands of them. It seems as if the roses are only surpassed by the children visiting the remarkable new California Science Center. National attention has been focused upon the crowds that have been attracted to the magnificent Getty Museum complex. Yet few realize that the new, creative Science Center has had greater attendance than the Getty--1.5 million visitors in the first six months after its opening.

Exposition Park is in the process of being redefined and reshaped to provide for the needs of the community during the next century. During the summer, USC beautifully landscaped Exposition Boulevard, and, on Oct. 14, the Jesse A. Brewer Jr. Park, the first section of the promenade and the soccer field were dedicated. Areas of Exposition Park, however, are still in a state of deterioration resulting from decades of use and limited funds for maintenance and repair.

On Tuesday, the citizens of Los Angeles will have the opportunity to become a part of this rebirth. If approved, Proposition EE would complete the second phase of the restoration of the park by providing the funds to rehabilitate the rose garden and improve and expand the Olympic Swim Stadium Regional Recreational Center and, with matching funds, construct the Environmental Science Learning Center, which will explore how living things sustain life within different environments.

Federal, state, county and private funds have paid for the improvements enabling this remarkable transformation, so 80% of the money is in place to complete the funding for these current projects. The citizens of Los Angeles should approve the last measure of support, to continue to build upon the work that has already been done, to correct years of neglect and seismic damage. A healthy, vibrant city must always view its parks and public spaces as one of its most valuable resources.

Money from Proposition EE will go directly to the Science Center, the Museum of Natural History and the California African American Museum for educational and exhibition programs. A small percentage of the funds will improve the rose garden and the brick walls surrounding it, which are failing and in need of earthquake strengthening. The annual cost per homeowner is projected to be $ 1.85, a small price for a park that gives so much to the people of Los Angeles.

Exposition Park is a magic place, and with the help of the citizens of Los Angeles it will remain so.

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