After almost a six-year delay, South Los Angeles’ Green Meadows neighborhood is seeing a project for a green space that improves public health become a reality.
Heal the Bay, a California environmental advocacy group, announced earlier this month that the construction of Inell Woods Park, created in collaboration with Councilmember Curren Price, non-profit organization North East Trees, California State Parks, and many local community members, will begin in early 2022.
Located at the intersection of McKinley Avenue and East 87th Place in South L.A., the park aims to not only provide a green space for the community, but also increase and improve the quality of the local water supply to protect public health.
“All we have is concrete, concrete, concrete. I’m so sick of concrete, it’s nice to have some green space anywhere. I love green!” said Ann Smith, the vice president of the neighborhood Home Improvement Club and a resident of South L.A. “When the people around here look out the window and see something nice, it’ll make them feel better.”
The need for more green spaces in L.A. has been a topic of discussion for environmental organizations. In 2019, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a Green New Deal that promised to increase the number of trees and green spaces, specifically in some of L.A.’s most vulnerable communities. COVID-19 caused delays in the plan’s goal of planting 90,000 trees by the end of last year, according to NBC Los Angeles.
In a recent study conducted at the University of San Diego, it was determined that across the nation, communities of color with less wealth and green spaces were consistently several degrees hotter than predominantly white and affluent neighborhoods. These communities are known as urban heat islands, and Heal the Bay has taken the initiative to plan and open up community green spaces around South L.A. to combat the ongoing issue.
“When you have a community that is so underrescourced, it’s really imperative and strategic to put places that improve public health in communities with the greatest need,” said Meredith McCarthy, Heal the Bay’s director of operations. “If we get healthy neighborhoods, we’ll get a healthy environment.”
The park will collect water from storm drains on surrounding streets, which will be filtered and reused to irrigate the park. The stormwater system has 100% irrigation efficiency with zero waste, a stark reduction in water use compared to other forms of irrigation and treats, stores and reuses 16,000 gallons.
“As we face the climate crisis, I think having as much green space as possible, especially in neighborhoods that have historically had a lack of green space is hugely important,” said Katherine Pease, the director of science and policy at Heal the Bay. “Just having little green spaces will help with things like cooling the urban heat island effect. It’ll be a nice place for people to cool off a little and get a rest from the heat.”
While Heal the Bay proposed the Inell Woods Park’s initial plans almost six years ago, efforts to open the park have been slow due to a lack of funds and the pandemic.
The organization plans to make a park that will improve, reuse, and supply quality water while also reducing the effects of carbon and lessening the heat island effect. With the funding of the Safe Clean Water Program, which was approved by voters in 2019, Heal the Bay is backed by the local government to increase green spaces while also improving water supply and quality.
“Curren Price’s office has just put wind beneath our wings again like we haven’t had in a long time,” said McCarthy. “We’re super excited about reminding the community it’s still coming, have faith, and we’re hoping to be in construction right in the new year.”
The city of L.A., Heal the Bay, North East Trees and Councilmember Curren Price, invited community members to the Inell Woods Park Open House this past Saturday. The event was designed to “remind everybody of the renderings and decisions we made several years ago,” according to McCarthy.
Members of the community who attended the event were eager about the possibilities of the new park. Jimmie Woods-Gray, who is also the daughter of the park’s namesake, Inell Woods, attended the event and said she is excited about it.
“Parks are like living rooms for the people in these communities, and so it will give them a new place to go to get outdoors and have places for the children to play and release some of their energies. This will be a great thing for the seniors. For the children. For anyone who lives in the neighborhood,” Woods-Gray said.
Another attendee, Demarae Bowles, believes the park will act as a place for community members to come together, uplift each other and overcome struggles.
“No lie, we do need help around here. And, you know, communities can come together and help each other out,” Bowles said. “No shame in their game... I just came to join each other to try to uplift the community the best we can.”