Offering respite along a bikeway bordering the northeast bank of the Los Angeles River are two small parks that opened late last month as part of a three-phase project to revitalize an area that has long been considered a blight.
“Most cities turn their backs to the river. It’s considered a drainage canal,” said Peter Vierheilig, project manager of the second phase of the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, located across the river from Griffith Park.
“There’s been a movement throughout Los Angeles to make the river our frontyard, for recreation and for people to enjoy their day,” he said.
Planning for the second phase began about four years ago for the pair of parks that cost $3.5 million to complete.
One, called Confluence Park, is located at the confluence of the Verdugo Wash and the river, while Flower Plaza is at Flower Street and Fairmont Avenue. Both offer a place to stop and rest, Vierheilig said.
The most recent phase also includes a river outlook and 110-foot bridge crossing a box culvert, allowing the continuance of a recreational path from the first phase of the project.
Funding came from local development-impact fees, a Los Angeles County transportation tax known as Measure R, and a water grant created by state Proposition 84, in addition to a small portion from the statewide gas tax, Vierheilig said.
Since taking helm of the project that’s been in the works since the late 1990s, Vierheilig said he’s enjoyed watching an increasing number of Disney and Dreamworks employees use the bike path that’s currently open to commute to work.
Employees from a nearby city-owned hazardous-waste facility also enjoy strolling around the green space at lunch, he said.
On Oct. 30, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, and state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman spoke positively about the project at a dedication ceremony celebrating the launch of phase II, according to Vierheilig.
“I’m not particularly political, but it was inspiring to hear their excitement about the project and the future of the project,” Vierheilig said.
Early planning has started on the third phase, which will include a bridge across the river that will link the western part of Glendale with Griffith Park. Vierheilig said he expects construction is still five years out.
There is also hope to build a smaller bridge connecting western Glendale to northern Atwater Village, thereby linking two bike paths on either side to create a much longer one. Vierheilig said.
The final leg of the project is projected to cost $25 million, a figure that covers development costs, required environmental research and construction, he added.
Completed in 2012, the project’s first phase includes an entry park, a picnic area along the river, an equestrian facility and a half-mile recreational trail.