A patch of dirt on the border of Alhambra has been transformed into a state-of-the-art park, complete with solar-powered lighting, a fitness station, and a tilework labrynth embedded in the ground.
"My favorite part of the park is the tile maze because it's really pretty," said Belen Hernandez, age 8. Her mother, Gabby Hernandez has another favorite: "My favorite part is that there are benches for me to sit on far away so I can read without you guys bugging," she says, laughing.
Community members, mariachis, and a few Santa Clauses joined Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks on Dec. 8 to celebrate the grand opening of the El Sereno Arroyo Playground. While construction of the playground, under the direction of the non-profit organization Trust for Public Land, began in July, the community had been insisting for more than 30 years that the city develop the 1.3-acre patch of land that had long been vacant and overrun by weeds. The final result is the combined efforts of collaboration by different community groups, including Northeast Trees, Concerned Neighbors of El Sereno, and the LA-32 Neighborhood Council.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who grew up in neighborhoods closer to the El Sereno area, commended the project. "I know what a big difference a park can make," he said at the playground's dedication in October, according to the Examiner. "It’s a major part of the fabric of every community and every community deserves one.”
The new playground at the corner of Lowell and Alhambra avenues includes a nature garden, solar-powered lighting and trash cans, and the mosaic labrynth designed by artist Jolino Bessera, who is also the artist behind the tilework in the children's section of the Alhambra Civic Center Library.
"The community is very invested in this space," said Tori Kjer, a project manager from Trust for Public Land. Since 2009, the group held several meetings in the community to discuss options for the space and get feedback from residents. "It belongs to them and they're going to help take care of it too."