New Gardens Revitalize Rio de Los Angeles State Park

©When you think of Los Angeles, “serenity” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The city has a reputation for smoggy skies and bumper-to-bumper traffic, and residents looking for a peaceful outdoor escape may think they need to leave town to find it. But what many locals don’t realize is that natural beauty and state parks can be found within city limits. Rio de Los Angeles is one such state park that offers access to hiking trails, recreation areas, wildlife, and more – and it’s only getting better.


Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Photo Credit: © Margaret Oakley Otto

Located along the Los Angeles River (the “Rio de Los Angeles”) in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles, the site of this state park was once used mainly for the maintenance and repair of railroad cars. Today, the park boasts sports fields, a playground, a recreation building, hiking trails, and places for gathering and taking a breather, like The Artist’s Bench, a tiled seating installation created by local artist Suzanne Siegel and students from Ara­gon Avenue Elementary School. And most recently, Park Stewards including CSPF’s Park Champions volunteers have embarked on the creation of four new gardens that will enhance the beauty of the park and the experiences of its visitors.

Rio de Los Angeles State Park, (c) Marygrace Lopez

The Artist’s Bench at Rio de Los Angeles.

The four gardens include a Sensory Garden, an Edible and Medicinal Garden, a Butterfly Garden, and a Bird Garden.

  • The Sensory Garden will encourage visitors to wander through and enjoy the scents of plants like native bay, mint, sage, and other aromatic species.
  • The Edible and Medicinal Garden will include plant species native to the Los Angeles basin that nourished and healed native peoples for thousands of years.
  • The Butterfly Garden will be planted with a variety of California native milkweed species as well as known host plants for southern California butterfly species.
  • The Bird Garden will be planted with berry and fruit producing shrubs to attract songbirds, and nectary flowering species to attract hummingbirds.

Sage plants before planting in the Sensory Garden. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor,

The Sensory Garden was planted in December 2014 by Park Champions volunteers, and the other gardens will begin to take shape over the next two years.

“These native gardens are meant to unite the two goals of having native habitat to support the local ecosystem, and offering community enjoyment and interpretive opportunities to connect with the incredible character of California native plants,” says Margaret Oakley Otto, the Southern California Program Consultant for the Park Champions Program.


Planting the Sensory Garden at a Park Champions volunteer workday. Photo Credit: © Will Taylor,

Stop by Rio today to see the progress and enjoy the many activities the park has to offer. And if you would like to join the efforts to improve Rio de Los Angeles State Park, check out the Park Champions volunteer calendar to sign up for upcoming workdays.

story BY CSPF Program Assistant Meredith Alling

SoCal Edison Supported Park Programs in 2014

As we kick off a new year, we want to reflect on some of the great work that happened in 2014. We want to express a big thank you to Southern California Edison for their support in 2014 for two great projects: Park Champions and Summer Learning.

Park Champions
Southern California Edison supported 33 Park Champions projects across the Southern California Edison territory in 2014. Their generous financial assistance helped provide tools, plants, building materials and lunches for many volunteer projects including: 10 workdays at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (habitat restoration & landscaping), 9 workdays at Rio de Los Angeles State Park (habitat restoration & landscaping), 7 workdays at Chino Hills State Park (trail building), 4 workdays at Mount San Jacinto State Park (trail building), and one workday each at Carpinteria State Beach (invasive plant removal and general clean-up), Channel Coast State Beach (repainting lifeguard headquarters), and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park (painting and carpentry).

Summer Learning
Southern California Edison also helped expand the day and overnight camping opportunities to youth in the Summer Learning program through the purchase of much needed outdoor equipment and teaching aides for park interpreters.

The expansion of the day and overnight camping opportunities was possible in four of the Summer Learning program locations in Southern California: LA,  Whittier,  San Bernardino and Santa Ana. The grant also paid for four bus trips for LA’s Best to go camping at San Clemente.

Thanks for a great year, Edison!