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New Silver Lake park opens

April 2, 2011 |  3:59 pm

As Los Angeles city officials put the finishing touches on the long-planned Silver Lake Meadows project this week, some neighbors couldn't wait and hopped the fence at the eastern edge of the reservoir to explore the city’s newest plot of parkland.

The $1-million project – paid for through a combination of state and city funds – officially opened Saturday when Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilman Tom LaBonge cut the ribbon before shedding their shoes and walking barefoot on the grass. Several families were sprawled on the lawn while some little girls practiced pirouettes.

During the brief ceremony, Garcetti and LaBonge, who both represent neighborhoods near the reservoir, noted that the project had been a long time coming. It faced opposition from some neighbors who were concerned that it would draw noise, unwanted crowds and greater competition for parking spaces. But Garcetti said support for the project was nearly 3-to-1 among his constituents.

"This is a really, really happy day,” said Garcetti, who said planning for the park space around the reservoir began more than 15 years ago. “We are opening more than three acres of badly needed new green space in the city of Los Angeles today.”

“When we get caught up in wars abroad, and we think about national recessions, we forget that sometimes the change we need to see happens right here in our own backyards,” the council president said.

City officials built the walking path around the reservoir, as well as a dog park near Van Pelt Place and Silver Lake Boulevard, several years ago. Construction of the meadows began last summer. Planning is underway for a final phase of the walking path on an edge of the adjoining Ivanhoe Reservoir to complete the trail, as well as a pedestrian crosswalk on Silver Lake Boulevard.

“It’s really a place of tranquility—we really believe it impacts the quality of life here,” said Noah Stein, president of the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy. “As the city becomes a higher-density place, it actually gives people a place where they can relax. Otherwise there’s no place to go unless you want to spend $5 on a coffee.”

The meadows have been landscaped with about 2.5 acres of grass and more than two dozen trees, including blue cedars and sycamores. The city parks department planted native and drought-resistant species, including California Lilacs, Mexican Bush Sage and Silver Lupine. The park’s irrigation system was built with sensors to monitor how much water is needed on any given day.

After lengthy dialogue with neighbors, officials decided to keep the park as “passive space,” meaning that no dogs and no organized sporting events will be allowed within the meadows. But LaBonge, a Silver Lake native, and Garcetti said discussions about those issues would continue as people begin to use the park, which will be open from dawn until dusk.

"I don’t think anyone is going to stop anybody from throwing a Frisbee,” LaBonge said.

-- Maeve Reston in Silver Lake