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Existing Open Space, Recreation, and Trails

Having equitable, safe, inclusive, connective, and accessible parks is critical for public health and social equity.

Increasing overall acres of park land and access to parks positively benefit communities such as by reducing rates of preventable diseases like diabetes and obesity. 1 Rahman T,Cushing RA, Jackson RJ Contributions of built environment to childhood obesity. The Mount Sinai journal of medicine, New York. 2011; 78(1): 49-57.2 Dannenberg AL, Jackson RJ, Frumkin H, Schieber RA, Pratt M, Kochtitzky C, Tilson HH, The Impact of Community Design and Land-Use Choices on Public Health: A Scientific Research Agenda, American Journal of Public Health. 2003; 93(9): 1500-8.3 Jiang, B., Zhang, T., & Sullivan, W.C. (2015). Healthy Cities; Mechanisms and research questions regarding the impacts of urban green landscapes on public health and well-being. Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 3 (1), p. 24-35. Published in Mandarin and English.

Existing open space along the LA River corridor is fragmented and limited. Twelve of the fourteen communities directly adjacent to the river do not meet LA County’s adopted goal of four acres of local parkland per 1000 people. Furthermore, twelve of the seventeen cities within a mile of the river are in the lower quartile (under 2.4 acres per 1,000 people) among park and recreation agencies in the Pacific Southwest tracked by the National Recreation and Park Association.4Findings from the 2021 Agency Performance Review, NRPA, 2018-2020. Accessed 8/10/2021. Many of the municipalities within a mile of the river also have goals for park space that are higher than the overall LA County goals.

2016 LA County Department of Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment
LA County Map
Park need is in accordance with the 2016 LA County Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Needs Assessment, which took into account park size, proximity to parks, and population density, the highest existing park need in LA County is located in South LA.
LA Countywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment, Parks and Recreation, 2016.
LA County Parks Classification
While there are 26 community and regional parks within one mile of the river, over 80% of those parks are confined to river miles 21 through 47.
LA County Department of Parks and Recreation Countywide Parks and Open Space, 2016; LA County Department of Regional Planning General Plan 2035 Parks and Recreation Element, 2015.

Several new parks that are planned along the river corridor, such as Taylor Yard, a 41.6 acre park project being implemented by the City of LA at river mile 25.6, will improve the quantity of parkland and access for adjacent neighborhoods. These parks are critical for creating 51 miles of connected open space along the river corridor.

The LA County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) completed a Comprehensive Park Needs Assessment in 2016 that catalogs park amenities as well as walkability to parks. It is a critical tool in prioritizing investments in new parks and park improvements, such as funding from the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches (Measure A). The assessment demonstrated a lack of walkable access to local parks along the LA River corridor. Large parks over 20 acres are lacking in the western San Fernando Valley and lower LA River. In many neighborhoods, open space near the river is difficult to access due to obstructions such as freeways, elevation changes, infrastructural easements, or lack of connectivity across the river corridor for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Much of the river is flanked by multiuse trails.
Scott Lowe, LA River Ride, 2009. Source License: CC BY-NC 2.0.
Equestrians have a unique ability to wade through and cross the river at the soft bottom sections.
Jeff Houze, 2014. Source License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Kayaking in the Sepulveda Basin LA River Recreation Zone provides a new perspective of the LA River.
Jay Field, Planning associates get to know LA River, 2017.

DPR works with numerous city parks and recreation departments and provides park and recreation opportunities in unincorporated communities. DPR also works across jurisdictions toward a goal of developing a regional network of connected multiuse trails for users including cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. DPR currently operates and maintains over 200 miles of multiuse trails throughout LA County, including 9 miles along the LA River. DPR has proposed hundreds of miles of additional trails throughout the region, including 16 additional miles along the LA River. Trails along the river should meet both recreation and active transport needs and be robustly planned to ensure an adaptable, yet consistent experience along the river’s 51 miles.

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