Park shifts out of neutral

City officials and dozens of area residents gathered Saturday morning in Glendale's Griffith Manor Park to celebrate its reopening after 10 months and $2.9 million worth of extensive renovations.

Once little more than a decaying lawn, the three-acre park in the city's industrial San Fernando corridor now features new childrens playgrounds, a lighted basketball court, shaded picnic areas, security fences, an expanded parking lot and a brand-new, 2,400-square-foot community building.

"This is a transformation, both for the park and the neighborhood," said Glendale City Councilman Frank Quintero, who took part in a reopening ceremony with Mayor Laura Friedman and members of the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission.

The city acquired Griffith Manor Park in 1937, and it hadn't been renovated since the 1970s. In a nod to the neighborhood's history as home to the 1920s Glendale Grand Central Airport, the community building and shade areas were designed to include elliptical arches that evoke aircraft hangars.

Also noteworthy, Friedman said, is the inclusion of contemporary eco-friendly elements such as reclaimed water irrigation, drought-tolerant plants and underground devices that trap and reuse runoff.

The park's remodel was paid for with state redevelopment agency dollars that are expected to dry up soon due to budget woes.

"This renovation really came about from the desires of the neighborhood. Now that the state is doing away with redevelopment agencies, we're not going to have as many resources to do these kinds of projects," Friedman said.

Spirits remained high, however, as families enjoyed free food and children's activities while exploring the new park amenities.

"I like that it's safer," resident Rosa Garcia, who was with her 5-year-old daughter Celeste, said of the park's fences and single-gate entrance.

But with temperatures in the high 80s, she also praised the preservation of large and shady oak, sycamore, elm and magnolia trees that have grown there for decades.

"It might be my imagination," said Quintero, "but these wonderful old trees look happier, too."

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