LOCAL L.A. Now

New Sylmar community garden targets families with young children

Sylmar hopes to combat childhood obesity with new community garden
San Fernando opens new park along once-blighted Pacoima Wash

The first community garden serving families with young children in Sylmar opened Saturday as part of an effort to bring healthy eating habits to the northeast San Fernando Valley.

The garden, in El Cariso Community Regional Park, features 39 raised garden beds, fruit trees, a tricycle path and play areas.

"We've taken an unused section of the park and turned it into a thriving garden for children and families to enjoy," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in a statement. "It's a great addition because while many residents already use the park for play and exercise … They'll now have an opportunity to pick up some locally grown fruits and vegetables for a healthier lifestyle."

The garden was built as part of a project called Little Green Fingers, a community garden program spearheaded by the nonprofit LA Conservation Corps. The organization builds gardens in low-income neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County, in an effort to combat obesity. 

The gardens are built in part with grant money from First 5 LA, an independent county agency that provides programs for children from birth to age 5. 

The Sylmar garden will provide a minimum of 6,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables each year and will feature cooking and nutrition classes for families with young children, according to Little Green Fingers. 

The Sylmar children's garden is located on a bluff overlooking Pacoima Wash, a tributary of the Los Angeles River that city and county officials, along with residents, have been trying to revitalize in recent years. 

Most of the Pacoima Wash is encased in concrete and closed to the public. Many locals view it as an eyesore, saying it attracts illegal garbage dumping and graffiti. Officials in Los Angeles and San Fernando hope to improve the environment by adding bike lanes and parks along the waterway.

One such project, the 4.7-acre Pacoima Wash Natural Park, in San Fernando, held its grand opening Saturday.

As she made her way to the event, Deborah Carrillo, a fifth-grade teacher at nearby Vista del Valle Dual Language Academy, excitedly told her husband she planned to take her students for walks in the park.

Students at the school lack adequate green space, and obesity and diabetes rates are high, she said.

"There's no place to run and play," Carillo said. "This is important because it gets them to come outside."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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