Park Restores Some Nature to L.A. River

Times Staff Writer

The newly dedicated Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom will bring "nature to the neighborhood" and is the first of many preservation projects planned along the Los Angeles River in the San Fernando Valley. The half-acre park, near Fulton Avenue in Studio City, has a 30-seat outdoor amphitheater, restored natural areas and native landscaping. It is named after a pioneering 1960s environmentalist who was one of the founders of the Friends of the Los Angeles River.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky helped the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy raise state and county funds for the $250,000 environmental enhancement project. "This is a wonderful confluence of the community wanting and working for this and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy who had the money to get it done," he said. "This is a small project with huge potential. This is the kind of thing that can spread the whole length of the river."

The conservancy improved access to the trails for dog-walkers and joggers by adding stairs and improving pathways. And the group planted different varieties of flowers.

The park will eventually include an extension of a bike path that will one day run the 51-mile length of the concrete-bottom river.

At a ceremony on Saturday, the nonprofit Village Gardeners, who since 1994 have volunteered to clear vegetation, plant flowers and clean the river bank in the area, were given a key to a newly built shed to store their gardening supplies. The group is credited with first envisioning the area's potential as a park.

"It's really one of those things where the neighbors came together with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to create a project that brings nature into the neighborhood," said Dash Stolarz of the conservancy, a state agency that works to create parkland in Southern California. "This particular project looks really good. It's a prototype of the kinds of things we'd like to do along the river."

Currently the conservancy is funding projects in Elysian Valley, the Tujunga Wash and near downtown.

"Realizing the recreational and educational potential of the Los Angeles River is one of the most exciting movements in Southern California today," said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

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