The slow transformation of Kenneth Hahn Park from a generous recreation area to sprawling nature reserve is well underway.
“We are working to change it into the largest park that was created in the last 100 years,” said David McNeill, Executive Officer at the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, at a Sierra Club meeting that took place over Zoom.
Through the Conservancy’s efforts, the park will eventually reach over two square miles, spanning 1,300 acres across La Cienega and La Brea Boulevards. New York City’s Central Park, in comparison, is only 840 acres.
A fixture of the park will be the Park to Playa Trail, a 13-mile path leading directly to Playa del Rey, with rest and learning stops along the way. The path has taken six years to plan, and cost around $25 million to implement, not including land acquisition.
“It’s really critical that we invest in parks and open space,” said Shona Ganguly, External Affairs Advisor at The Nature Conservancy , who was on the call. “We know that urban areas have a lot of biodiversity.”
Hundreds of acres of natural grasslands and California coastal sage scrubs will be protected and preserved in the project. The Conservancy, started in 2001, exists to acquire and develop public lands, with the overarching goal of expanding Kenneth Hahn into a two square mile park. So far, about 740 acres is complete.
One point of interest during the meeting was a bridge going up over La Cienega Blvd., an important connection in the Park to Playa Trail. The bridge leads into Stoneview Nature Center, a five acre park that will focus on leading a healthy lifestyle and where people can participate in yoga sessions and pick fruit off the one of 11 different native fruit trees. The bridge will open at the end of this year.
The missing piece of expansion is a bill that was introduced at the beginning of this year, AB 2000. The bill would sanction the southern area of Ballona Creek to the conservancy and would add the mayor of Culver City to its voting membership. The bill currently sits in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, where it could stall as the nation prioritizes responding to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.
“Urban conservancies, it’s just going to [take place in] impacted areas that have very little access and certainly a smaller voice,” McNiell said. “Those are the places that I really want to spend a lot of time and energy on.”