What’s the best place to build a wetland? How about at the site of an old MTA bus lot in South Los Angeles? It took more than $26 million and nearly three years to complete the transformation from parking lot to urban wetland. Open to the public as of February 9, the new South Los Angeles Wetland Park that doesn’t only efficiently process storm water runoff–it also provides crucial community green space.
As with many industrial environments, polluted storm water runs nearly unchecked to local water bodies, damaging habitats and freshwater supplies with the incursion of urban toxins. Before it was settled, South Los Angeles teemed with wildlife, oak forests, and dendritic streams feeding the Los Angeles River, but now that land has evolved into an impenetrable concrete cap. With backing from city councilwoman, Jan Perry, and funds from Proposition O, the new park will reactivate the area’s natural functions with kidney-shaped storm water pools, deep cleaning retention basins, and banks of native plants chosen for their ability to clean water. The nine-acre site will also provide meandering boardwalks and promenades that traverse the wetland and create an urban oasis for an area of Los Angeles that sorely lacks green space.
It takes a lot of time and a lot of space to clean up the runoff our cities create. Artificial wetlands may never serve the ecological functions once provided by the natural wetlands destroyed by development. However, there are environmental lessons in South Los Angeles to be learned by every city in the country. Blighted industrial lowlands? why not build a wetland?