Decades of rapid urban sprawl have left many cities in Los Angeles County with the difficulty of providing their residents with adequate outdoor space.
Through some out-of-the-box thinking and strategic partnerships, the City of Paramount has found a solution that not only addresses its shortage of outdoor space but also fosters healthy living among its residents.
Located just North of Long Beach and sandwiched between the cities of Bellflower, Compton, Downey, and Lynwood, Paramount covers 4.7 square miles of land in a densely urban area that has been built out for quite some time.
According to the 2010 Census, Paramount has over 54,000 residents, which amounts to a population density of roughly 11,000 residents per square mile.
The ratio of park acreage to population is quite low and city leaders have been looking to expand open space for some time.
The city council first attempted to establish “pocket parks” in order to increase outdoor space. Paramount would enter into agreements with private land owners over their vacant lots. The city would then landscape and maintain these strategically-placed parcels so as to allow for public use.
This initiative, however, could not fully address the city’s shortage of parks and open space.
“When I first became city manager one of my dreams what to put a track on West side of town as that sector of the city didn’t have any such facilities,” stated City Manager Linda Benedetti-Leal.
Benedetti-Leal’s dreams eventually came true with the help of Southern California Edison, the well-established electric company that serves much of the Southern Californian region.
Edison owns a right-of-way located in the West side of the city. The parcel spans ten acres with power line corridors lining the stretch.
The City entered into an agreement with Edison to lease the property. After obtaining permission from the LA County Fire Department and State Public Utilities Commission, Paramount began planning for a new swath of open space in the vastly underserved sector of the city.
Edison’s power lines run parallel to the landscaped park, which is built on half the width of the corridor. In their agreement with the city, Edison established a couple key stipulations: no playground equipment or buildings were to be erected on the land due to the power lines.
While some agencies might balk at the restrictions, Paramount was just happy to have the space. Besides, a traditional park was not quite what city leaders had in mind.
It was the hope of the Benedetti-Leal and members of the council to incorporate the park with a larger healthy living initiative that the city had been promoting for some time.
Salud Park was born as a result, fusing the city’s need for open space and desire to emphasize fitness and exercise.
Salud is a Spanish term that means “for your health.” Given the city’s demographics—over 75% of residents are Latino—it is an apt designation.
The park features an outdoor gym and a designated plaza for exercise classes. The city is also proud of the park’s running track, which features synthetic turf on the inside where, according to city officials, soccer is often played until sundown.
The park was designed by Willdan Engineering, a firm based out of Anaheim.
Salud Park opened in April of this year. According to Christopher Callard, public information officer with the City of Paramount, it has been a huge success.
“We originally were going to close around 7pm but residents requested that it remain open until 9pm,” stated Callard. “To us, that is an indication that it’s been received well.”
Community groups have begun offering classes daily, including yoga, pilates and Zumba. The city states that the six day a week Zumba class is attended regularly by almost 60 people.
Callard and Benedetti-Leal are blown away by the public’s reception. According to the city, staff members who work at the park are getting compliments all the time about the new open space and they have received scores of emails from residents expressing thanks.
“It was a really long haul but a dream come true for me,” said Benedetti-Leal. “It is a great park that is heavily utilized with lots of people running and exercising at all hours of the day. I’m really happy that we could make it happen.”