By Lucille Roybal-Allard and John Laird
If you live in L.A., you would never know that while idling in your car in traffic along the 110, you are sitting beside what could be one of the most effective obesity, crime, and disease prevention tools we have in our community – the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Not just any park, the 32 acres of open space directly adjacent to Chinatown is on the verge of becoming an urban outdoor oasis in a community that truly needs one. The vision and master plan are in place to expand the 13-acre portion of the park currently open to the public so that children and families in Downtown Los Angeles have even more safe and green places to play.
Unfortunately, the imminent and real possibility of deep cuts to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is today threatening the entire viability of the project.
Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965 to preserve and develop quality outdoor recreation resources such as the Los Angeles State Historic Park and to “strengthen the health and vitality of the citizens of the United States.”
Funded by royalties paid by oil and gas companies for their drilling activities on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Fund provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities without using a penny of tax dollars.
Over the years, $58 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped make possible significant outdoor recreation sites throughout Los Angeles County, including the new state park in Baldwin Hills and countless other local parks and playgrounds.
Greatly anticipated grants from the Fund would allow the Los Angeles State Historic Park to accelerate its plans for expansion. The project includes: installation of an environmental playground; a new series of access paths over rail yards from Chinatown; and the removal of concrete along the Los Angeles River to promote habitat, conservation, and play in this densely populated urban neighborhood.
In addition, the Los Angeles State Historic Park along with the nearby Rio de Los Angeles State Park (aka the LA River State Park) are considered centerpieces for broader revitalization efforts planned along with LA River greenway.
However, without sufficient funding to realize the vision of the master plan developed with the support of the neighboring community, the park remains just a field.
The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a dramatic 80 percent cut in federal budget funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Enactment of the proposed cuts would severely limit our state and local government’s capacity to develop parks and protect green space and waterways in the future. We must not let this happen.
Outdoor opportunities and safe play areas are essential to a well-rounded childhood. By continuing the Fund’s mission at Los Angeles State Historic Park and elsewhere throughout California and the nation, we will preserve our communities’ unique cultural identities while better ensuring that all of our families – regardless of means – have access to safe, green, parks to have fun and enjoy nature.
In the coming weeks, when Congress attempts to speed through approval of the 2012-13 federal budget, we all need to ask the GOP leadership to take a deep breath, slow down, and save this essential initiative.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard represents California’s 34th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. John Laird is the California Secretary of Natural Resources.