Officials unveil park

LA CRESCENTA — After six years of planning, multiple redesigns and a wealth of anticipation, county officials joined Crescenta Valley community leaders on Wednesday to unveil a new spot park at the foot of Pickens Canyon and to dedicate the small site’s lone tree to fallen local soldier Nicholas Steinbacher.

Nestled next to Pickens Canyon Wash at the eastern border of unincorporated La Crescenta, the 3,800-square-foot strip of native, drought-tolerant plants, cement benches and riverlike curved walkways was heralded as a welcomed makeover for the town’s Foothill Boulevard gateway.

“This park is really a reflective environmental oasis . . . ” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, whose office put up the $187,000 it took to fund the park.

With its minimalist feel and eco-friendly design, Pickens Canyon Park is most notable for what it isn’t: a parking lot.

Some six years ago, the owner of the neighboring Briggs Plaza cut down about six pine trees that once occupied the current park property, reportedly to clear the way for more plaza parking, said Stuart Byles, a local activist who is credited with the initial idea to turn the land into a spot park. And the city of La Cañada Flintridge, assuming it owned the county-owned strip, was considering the proposal, Byles said.

But the move spurred community members into action: Residents and members of the Foothill Design Committee, a council subcommittee, brought the land dispute to the attention of the county, which always owned the property, ultimately laying the foundation for the park that was unveiled Wednesday.

Crescenta Valley Town Council Mayor Grace Andrus likened the collaborative effort that created the park to the end of an era when the unincorporated community seemed to evolve without much input from residents.

“Prior to the Foothill Design Committee [a council sub-committee], we were a sleepy, lackluster community to which things just happened,” Andrus said.

And while only days old, the dedication of a young oak tree to La Crescenta native Nicholas Steinbacher, who was killed in Iraq in 2006, helped the park immediately take root in the community, said Steinbacher’s father, Paul Steinbacher.

Nicholas Steinbacher had just turned 22 when he died Dec. 10, 2006, from injuries after a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy during a night patrol in Baghdad just six weeks into his military tour of Iraq.

The La Crescenta resident played Falcon football at Crescenta Valley High School, like his father did in the 1970s. Steinbacher was honored last year at the Crescenta Valley Arbor Day ceremony, when his tree was first dedicated. Always meant to be planted in Pickens Canyon Park as soon as the site was finished, the young oak is now in the ground to stay, Andrus said.

“It’s a wonderful thing to know that Nick has his name on a real live park,” Steinbacher’s mother Carolyn Steinbacher said. “And it doesn’t matter that it’s a small pocket park. What matters is that La Crescenta, where Nick was born and raised, really cares about him.”


 RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at ryan.vaillancourt@latimes.com.

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