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L.A. County's Parks to Get $105 Million

Recreation: Funds from voter-approved bond measure will pay for many projects, from basketball court resurfacing to facilities along L.A. River.

April 07, 2001|JOE MOZINGO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State officials announced the allocation of $105 million to parks in Los Angeles County as part of the massive state parks bond measure passed by voters last year.

The lump of money to be distributed over the next few years is a share of $388 million that will go to cities, counties and other agencies from Crescent City to San Diego--the largest infusion of cash to local parks in California history.

"This is the biggest portion of the local park fund," said Steve Capps, spokesman for the state Department of Parks and Recreation. "Now that these agencies know what they'll be getting, they can start spending it."

The money may go to everything from resurfacing old basketball courts to renovating playgrounds to creating a string of parks along the Los Angeles River.

Because the amount given to each area was based on the concentration of people there, it will effectively target the urban core, where open space is scarce.

This $388 million is just part of the overall $2.1-billion measure--which also divvies up funds for specific projects, conservancies, nonprofit groups and state parks--but so far the most significant to go to cities and counties.

"It's a recognition that the environment is not just out there somewhere, but here in the cities," said former state Sen. Tom Hayden, who worked to get the bond measure passed. "It's recognition that the poor need parks."

Local governments will next decide how to spend the money.

For the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, which stands to gain $39 million, the money still represents only a fraction of what the agency needs to repair and maintain its ailing system of 130 facilities. Even after getting $240 million from two county bond measures during the 1990s, the agency has "$300 million in unmet needs," said parks Director Rodney Cooper.

He will make his recommendations for specific projects to the county Board of Supervisors, which will decide where to direct the funds.

The state officials--including the director of state parks, Rusty Areias; state Resources Secretary Mary Nichols; state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) and mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa--said they held Friday's news conference at Jesse Owens Community Regional Park in South Los Angeles because it provided a prime example of a county park in need of repairs.

The soccer and baseball fields at the 21-acre park are skinned and could use new sod. The tennis courts are chipped and cracked and the restrooms "need a lot of work," said Shawn McAdory, recreations officer of the park. "One has to be torn down and completely rebuilt."

"We need this money," he said.

Areias said: "This is the day that cities, counties and eligible park districts have been waiting for since the passage of the bond act on March 7, 2000."

The city of Los Angeles stands to gain $24.6 million, and Long Beach, $2.9 million. Other cities getting more than $1 million are El Monte, Glendale, Inglewood, Lancaster, Palmdale, Pasadena, Pomona, Santa Clarita and Torrance.

While the distributions were determined with a formula and local census figures, agencies had to haggle over how many people they serve.

All the agencies had until last Sunday to resolve these issues before the state parks department made its final decision.

Capps said the fact that Murray and Villaraigosa, who wrote the parks bond measure, are engaged in last-minute campaigning for office had nothing to do with the timing of Friday's announcement.

"The date is actually written in the bill," he said.

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