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Griffith Park's Fern Dell selected for cultural preservation

A plant at Fern Dell in Griffith Park.

Fern Dell, a garden oasis of ferns, trees and picturesque bridges in Griffith Park, was selected Thursday as one of 14 historic American landscapes in urgent need of preservation.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that aims to increase awareness of historic landscapes, made the selection as part of an annual program to draw immediate attention to valuable but threatened spaces.

Other California landscapes selected were Jack London Lake in Glen Ellen and the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Los Angeles.

The Japanese garden was put up for sale in March by cash-strapped UCLA, which said rising costs for upkeep and limited attendance made it difficult to maintain.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, however, temporarily blocked the sale after garden supporters protested that UCLA had pledged to the the donors to maintain the garden in perpetuity. A trial date has been set for May.

The foundation said the 90-year-old Fern Dell was threatened by neglect after regularly scheduled, skilled maintenance of its architectural features and plants ended in the 1970s.

Once a mecca for California health-seekers who sipped what they believed was a "fountain of youth" from Fern Dell’s spring-fed well, the 20-acre park has slowly declined.

The landscape’s defining hand-hewn stonework and concrete faux bois railings have been poorly repaired and construction near the park has compromised the water source, jeopardizing the ferns and trees, the foundation said.

“It is important that restoration efforts be implemented before the landscape declines further,” the foundation said in a statement.

The 20-acre site is the largest public fern garden in California and one reason Griffith Park was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument by the city of Los Angeles in 2009. 

Friends of Griffith Park, a nonprofit, is spearheading Fern Dell’s preservation efforts.


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Credit: A plant at Fern Dell in Griffith Park. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.

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