September Great Story by Jose Torres, Greater Los Angeles Water Fellow
Your 2017-2018 CivicSpark Water Fellows for the City of Culver City are Jonathan Dolan and Jose Torres. The project beneficiaries are made up of a collaborative team of four departments at Culver City: Division of Economic Development, Division of Advanced Planning, Department of Public Works, and the Ballona Creek Task Force. The main goals and ultimate vision for the creek restoration project are focused on “Revitalization,” or a return to a more natural aesthetic state. This is an exciting project for Jonathan and myself, for we are being told to dream big with our ideas. The creek is already seen by many as a hidden gem and an oasis in the harsh concrete environs of the greater Los Angeles region. Much like the Los Angeles River, although at a much smaller scale, the Ballona Creek has the potential to help heal and transform the city which surrounds it by providing flood protection, increasing biodiversity, and adding a much needed multi-modal transportation infrastructure (pedestrians, bicyclists, kayaks).
Service Day 1
The Ballona Creek, is a channelized ~8mile waterway that winds its path through the City of Culver City, before it drains approximately 130 sq. mi. of the Ballona Creek Watershed as it joins the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Bay. Due to its natural meandering, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to straighten and cement the creek for flood control purposes in 1935. Fast-forward to today, and the topography has now been transformed to be covered by cement, leaving only a very small percentage of wetlands in this watershed. Covered and cemented streets for cars, adds to run-off and pollutant infiltration, which ultimately makes its way to the Ballona Creek, and eventually to the Pacific Ocean. Our placement at Culver City, aims to assist in work on on-going plans to bring this creek back to a more original state, while at the same time create something of value for future generations.
Ballona Creek Trail at Washington Blvd. Bridge Crossing
A number of challenges have arisen in our initial research and assessment phase. Some of the main issues are related to; 1) the lack of clear jurisdictional oversight and responsibility, 2) infrastructure improvement needs such as signage, lighting, and path widening, 3) a dangerously low percentage of native plant species (1%), and a dwindling biodiversity. All of these challenges are a result of decades of neglect on all jurisdictional fronts. The lines of communication between these diverse groups seems to have improved in the past few years. Some progress has been made, such as the Milton Street Park project (a $3MM linear park) adjacent the bike trail, which has added aesthetic appeal and a much needed rest stop for users of Ballona Creek trail.
On the other hand, opportunities are only limited by the ability to imagine and to agree and act on the ideas put forth by the collective. Some opportunities which have already been highlighted in previous reports, include the integration of an educational component to the creek, i.e., using the creek as an outdoor classroom. This is the sort of necessary measures which must be pursued, in order to ensure that the younger generation of local students, better understand and appreciate what the creek has to offer to their neighborhood, but even more importantly to the region at large.