6th Stop: Maywood
We made our way over the historic bridges of downtown LA, wandered past Mariachi Square in the Mexican-American community of Boyle Heights, weaved our way through immense logistics warehouses and sprawling intermodal yards, and finally found ourselves at a fence on the Vernon/Maywood city line.
This was our last stop on the LA River tour. Downtown was suddenly far away and the overwhelming impression was that we were in a whole new world. Yet there she was again, the river we had been following all day. It was about twice as wide as the last time we had seen it, now about the size of both lanes of the adjacent I-5 freeway. Amazingly, tons of birds, including black-necked stilts, coots, and a pair of cinnamon teal, still used the channel.
We walked along part of a bike path which runs from Vernon all the way to Long Beach, a distance of 25 miles. Tour leader Joe Linton stopped the group in front of a beautiful park, complete with playgrounds and bike racks but, curiously, locked up and empty. He pointed to a mound of dirt in an adjacent lot, and explained that the park was formerly a contaminated site that had been cleaned up to EPA standards, and that was the soil that had been removed.
Unfortunately, local politicians in Maywood who had won office on the platform that the park was still unsafe have refused to open the park until it is cleaned up to their satisfaction. This is an issue in many of the river’s new parks, because the only reason they were available for parkland is because they were too contaminated for development. Some were formerly designated as brownfields, or even superfund sites.
Many in our group commented that it seemed odd to prevent kids from playing in a park in an area where open space is so obviously needed, but politics is politics. Hopefully the issue will soon be resolved, because even in such conditions, I could see that having a park alongside a bike path that follows the river all the way to the sea would be a great resource to have.