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Addressing Local Water Challenges at Marsh Park

As part of Sequoyah High School's, Social Innovation Program which is designed to get students into the community, learning from experts, understanding the demographics, industry and infrastructure of Los Angeles, and learning how to affect positive, sustainable change, and this year is focusing on the LA River asking questions like, "how we might take part in revitalization efforts given efforts by the city, nonprofits, concerned individuals, etc."

CWH led a site tour at Marsh Park to give students an example of how multi-benefit projects and water monitoring can impact our watershed. After the site tour students produced projects for their final presentation. The final project consisted of a long timeline "past, present, and future" of the Los Angeles River.

Lousie 19', student of Sequoyah High School summarizes her experience during the site tour.

As we drove through the relatively dense, semi-urban community of Elysian Valley, we were not prepared to see the lush and manicured landscape that greeted us at the gates of Marsh Park. The new park, with it’s jogging paths, work-out stations and elegantly sculpted benches borders a residential community on one side and the LA river on the other. There is not a view, currently, of the river as a large hangar-style industrial workspace stands between the river and the park. Even in the middle of a weekday, the park was populated by joggers, cyclists, and people sitting in the sun on the benches.

We were met by the generous and knowledgeable Dr Chris Solek and CWH Staff Scientist, Ari Jong. They had brought with them large poster boards displaying photos of the area before and after the park’s creation. We discussed everything from issues of urban runoff, water quality and testing, pollutants in the LA River, and the ways in which park materials (soil, grass, permeable decomposed granite paths) filter the water of its harmful pollutants and how the environment is designed for the optimal dispersal of water into the groundwater supply and the river itself. Nitrates and heavy metals have been identified as particularly harmful in water run-off.

We toured the whole park and walked to the riverfront to see the pathway of the water and where it was channeled into the river. We also identified the plant species native to the area that have been specifically included in the park’s landscape design. We walked over to an adjacent park area that had been designed as a skate park, reflecting the community's needs and wishes. It was pointed out that while the project is meant to address critical water and environmental concerns, it was also designed to create a better quality of life for community residents.

What we learned on our visit with Dr. Solek and his colleagues about local water quality and treatment approaches, has inspired one of our SIP teams to focus on water testing, quality, and pollution issues on the LA River. The innovative and comprehensive solutions employed at Marsh Park have shown us a viable way of addressing some of our local water challenges.

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