Mention a park in Los Angeles and chances are you'll think of Griffith Park. All 4,107.87 acres of it. It's the city's biggest.
But what about the smallest?
At the other end of the city's roster of 353 parks are four vest-pocket oases clustered in Venice. Each is listed by the Department of Recreation and Parks as .01 of an acre in size, only a few hundred square feet of refuge, the smallest parks in all of Los Angeles.
In fact, they're so small, that a Times reporter could find only two of them. Maybe three. But certainly not four.
The four swatches of green are officially recorded by the city as Crescent Place Triangle, Nowita Triangle, Marco Triangle and Marco Place Parkway.
Crescent Place has a triangular shape, as does, to a lesser extent, Marco Triangle.
Nowita Triangle and Marco Place Parkway may have once existed, but they appear to have evaporated into the shadows of history, although they're still recorded as developed parks on the department's books.
The Crescent and Marco triangles are nestled among Venice's picturesque walkways, about half a mile northeast of the community's popular canals and about a mile east of the beach.
Chockablock to the tiny parks are the neighborhood's cottage-like homes--some in ragtag condition, others smartly renovated. The atmosphere along the pathways, where flowers blaze in bright colors next to wooden fences, is almost reminiscent of the English countryside and in dramatic contrast to nearby traffic-choked Lincoln, Washington and Venice boulevards.
Venice locals are proud of their vest pocket parks, and if the city doesn't always take care of the parks, they do it themselves.
"See that apple tree," said Wayne, a heavyset resident whose long, braided ponytail hung over a black T-shirt carrying the message "Fight Crime. Shoot Back," it "was donated."
He pointed to a seedling sprouting in the middle of Marco Triangle off Shell Avenue. It was planted by residents, said Wayne, who declined to give his last name.
"There was a big tree here," he said, "but a guy cut it down 'cause it was dropping leaves in his yard."
Marco Triangle's grass was neatly cut--but nobody could say for sure who was doing the mowing--and even sported a tiny rose bush, compliments of another neighbor, Wayne pointed out with a touch of local pride.
"The city doesn't plant that stuff here," he said.
Not as Spiffy
But Crescent Place Triangle wasn't as spiffy.
With a traffic circle on one side and the picturesque Crescent Place walk behind it, Crescent Triangle was filthy and appeared not to have been cleaned recently. Dog droppings were everywhere. Soda bottles and cans littered its patchy yellowing grass. An aging palm tree and a couple of yucca plants were the sole landscaping.
Nicole McDowell, 15, worked in the park as she baby-sat with Elizabeth Mulkey, 2. Nearby, Nicole's wire-haired mutt, Benji, barked at a gray cat smugly walking out of reach along a wooden fence fronting a nearby house.
Neighbors, Nicole said, had constructed a sandbox and a Jungle Jim.
"All the neighborhood kids come here," said the self-styled groundskeeper, as she turned a hose on the sparse grass.
Los Angeles' park maintenance supervisor, Richard Ginevan, said he had "no idea" where Crescent Place Triangle was located but expressed surprise at its filthy condition.
"If it's open to the public, it should be clean," he said in a telephone interview.
The tiny parks--like Crescent Place Triangle and Marco Triangle--are maintained, albeit on a smaller scale, just like the big ones, he said.
"There're no resident caretakers," he said, but added that "for sure, once a week," city maintenance workers groom the tiny parks while on a route that also includes pruning around public buildings, such as police stations, libraries and animal shelters.
Nowita Triangle is supposed to be nearby on Nowita Place, another quaint path between Oakwood and Shell avenues. But the only patch of green that could be found was a grassy circle, no more than 12 feet in diameter about halfway down the walkway. In the center is a tall palm tree.
And Marco Place Parkway, listed on Marco Court, a cement alley near Lincoln Boulevard, also turned out to be elusive.
Could two parks have disappeared? They could have been closed down years ago, said park official Ginevan.
Pat Munoz, 60, has lived nearby all his life. He knows Venice's labyrinth of paths, walkways and streets as well as anyone. He took a reporter and photographer on a brief tour of the maze but couldn't pinpoint the two small parks, either.
"I've been living here 60 years," he said. "I've never heard of them."