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Tram to Observatory and a River Pier Part of Master Plan for Griffith Park

Times Staff Writer

A new master plan for Griffith Park to be unveiled tonight includes a proposal for two aerial trams that would whisk visitors to mountaintop vistas, including the Griffith Observatory.

Also included in the sweeping plan is a landscaped pier on the Los Angeles River, the removal of several old maintenance buildings and replacement of the park’s dilapidated public restrooms. The draft master plan is basically a wish list to guide development of Griffith Park over the next 25 years. Funding is lacking for most projects and the plan is not set in stone -- the public will have many opportunities for offering suggestions in coming months before the plan is completed.

“I think there are a lot of great ideas in the plan; one of them is trying to protect and nurture wildlife corridors,” said Linda Barth, a senior analyst for the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. “I think there are also lots of fanciful and whimsical ideas, some of which may catch on, and some might be visions that we try to achieve in future generations.”

Even with the shortage of money, some of the proposals seem ambitious for a park created in 1896 and that still lacks trail signs and a coherent map of hiking paths.

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Much of the upper half of the park remains wild and is a thick tangle of chaparral. In fact, a mountain lion has been roaming the area for the past year.

But the developed portions of the park could use some work. Many structures need a fresh coat of paint and the ponds near the Fern Dell picnic area are often covered in slime.

The most ambitious element of the plan calls for construction of two aerial trams, similar to the type used at ski resorts. The idea has been considered in the past but not adopted.

The first tram would travel from two parking lots near the Greek Theatre to the Griffith Observatory, ascending several hundred feet. The tram could ease the parking shortage at the observatory, which is being renovated and is scheduled to reopen in May 2006.

The second tram would begin at the Museum of the American West, travel over the Los Angeles Zoo and then climb to Toyon Vista, which offers sweeping views of Burbank, Glendale and the Verdugo Mountains. The parks department has already said the tram should not be built.

Other proposals under consideration:

* Utility lines would be buried to give the park a more natural appearance. Two parking garages would be built on the edge of the park and shuttles would ferry visitors.

* Equestrian crossings would be improved to minimize the chance of horse-vehicle encounters. A bridge over the Los Angeles River to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center would be replaced.

* A pedestrian promenade would be constructed along Crystal Springs Drive and bike-rental facilities would be installed in various locations around the park.

* Several baseball fields would be built atop the old Toyon Canyon Landfill, which was covered long ago.

It remains to be seen how the public and those who live near the park will receive the ideas.

“As far as developing the park, I just don’t like the idea of it,” said Gerry Hans, who lives in Los Feliz Oaks and is involved with park issues for the Greater Griffith Neighborhood Council. “If the plan pulls in more cars, then that’s where you have to be cautious.”

Councilman Tom LaBonge said he’s not worried about the park being overdeveloped. He believes many provisions of the plan would make it a nicer experience for the public.

He is also pushing for expansion of Griffith Park by acquiring a 138-acre parcel on Cahuenga Peak, to the west of the Hollywood sign. That would also cost millions, but LaBonge said it would be worth the cost as the area is free of development.

“The best way to look at a mountain is when it’s naked,” he said.

The draft master plan can be viewed online at www.la parks.org


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