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

One thought on “New Gardens Revitalize Rio de Los Angeles State Park

  1. Great article! I think it’s interesting to learn a bit more of the history of the artist’s bench. Rio de Los Angeles State Park used to be known as Taylor Yard, after the family that owned the land where Southern Pacific Railroad had a depot. Hartley Taylor, the patriarch of the family, ran a general store and a commercial feed manufacturing plant, starting in the 1890’s. He also raised oats, barley, hogs and pigeons on the riverfront land. The depot was built in the 1920’s, and it was not completely abandoned until the mid-1980’s.
    After plans were announced to make Taylor Yard into a state park in 2001, the California State Parks Foundation embarked on a quest to fund the artist’s bench for the new park. We reached out to all of the descendents of the Taylor family, many of whom still lived in California. The family made the decision to collectively make a generous donation to CSPF to work with The River Project to design and build the bench. They enthusiastically participated in the whole process. The Taylor family’s dedication was such that in 2002, Hartley Taylor’s grandson, then in his sixties, made a trip to visit the Aragon Elementary fourth grade class to share his memories of visiting the site as a boy. He was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the class, who saw in him the living embodiment of an important part of the project they were busily creating. As CSPF’s Southern California Director at the time, I was privileged to be there on that occasion and remember it well. We took a photo with the class that was published in the newsletter; it was a classic.
    Rio de Los Angeles is one of L.A.’s treasures, and it’s great to see it receiving attention. I look forward to hearing more about the park’s evolution and growth.

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