The Bowtie Parcel Offers Inspiring Community Space in Los Angeles

 

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

GUEST BLOG BY PARK CHAMPIONS CORE LEADER MICHELLE WHITE

 

In central Los Angeles, adjacent to Rio de Los Angeles State Park, lies a bowtie-shaped piece of land that feels simultaneously scruffy and tranquil. Known as the Bowtie Parcel, these 18 acres of post-industrial land reside within the former Taylor Yard, a Southern Pacific Railroad service facility.

The Bowtie, acquired by California State Parks in 2003, reveals the potential of imagination and transformation, akin to New York’s High Line, a rail line transformed into a landscaped urban paseo with Hudson River and skyscraper views. Within such dense metropolises, the ability to consciously redevelop once-blighted space and bring more nature to city dwellers reflects the substantial impact of space upon social relations. As Luis Rincon, Community Engagement Coordinator for California State Parks, says, “The health and vitality of a community depend on its green space, its open space.”

Setting foot into the Bowtie immediately evokes the immense variety and messy juxtaposition of nature and urbanity that represents Los Angeles as a whole, and the history of its river. White noise from not-too-distant freeways meets the rush of the river. Carefully-designed “earthworks” and interpretive signage meet furtively-scrawled graffiti. Bikers whizz by on land, while ducks cruise by on the water. Non-native fountain grass and Mexican fan palms meet and overtake decomposed asphalt, displaying nature’s uncanny ability to reclaim over time. Fragrant native plants white sage and yerba santa meet the vaguely chlorinated smell of the river. Concrete banks meet soft-bottom riverbed.

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The Bowtie Parcel. Photo by Michelle White

With the July 2015 passage of a $1.3-billion plan to revitalize the LA River, now pending approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress, the Bowtie is already unique in its placement along the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river. In these 11 miles roughly between the 134 and 110 freeways, cement never set over the high water table, so while channelization severely disrupted the riparian habitat, wildlife returned to this area over time. Concrete still slopes down to the water, but Arundo donax (giant cane), an invasive grass from Southeast Asia, grows along the water in lush abundance, softening the scene – and preventing erosion. Herons, cormorants, egrets, carp and green sunfish call the river home. It’s an unexpected oasis.

Due to placement of the railroad adjacent to the LA River in the 1870s and channelization of the river in the 1930s, LA has remained fundamentally disconnected from its river as a recreational amenity for more than a century. However, groups such as Friends of the LA River, Play LA River, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the arts organization Clockshop have all worked to revitalize sections of the river.

In particular, Clockshop installed land art and interpretive signage at the Bowtie, working with LA-based artists and Woodbury Architecture for Civic Engagement (ACE) students, and facilitated events such as moonlit poetry readings, rain barrel workshops and urban campouts.

This past weekend Clockshop in partnership with California State Parks and the National Park Service, hosted an LA River Campout at the Bowtie. The popular reoccurring event offers Angelenos the opportunity to spend the night at the Bowtie, complete with dinner, campfire programming, and a survey of local flora and fauna. The Bowtie provides a central city setting to learn about LA’s abundant nature coexisting with the concrete, and to connect with community. As Rincon sums up, “The space is there, but when you add the people and the energy, it makes it come alive.”

Find more about the Bowtie, Clockshop and the LA River Campout here.

Celebrate Mother’s Day in CA State Parks

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 8. Looking for a unique way to celebrate mom? This year, think more wildflower than bouquet, more Mother Nature than brunch. Here are some outdoor outings perfect for the California mom in your life:

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View from Rancho del Oso by David Baron

Wander the Coast

Bring mom on a 1 mile, 1.5 hour guided walk with docent naturalist Ann Garside at Rancho del Oso (the coastal portion of Big Basin in Davenport). The group will walk from coastal scrub through one of the last native stands of Monterey Pine left in the world, enjoying the blooms along the way.

More info

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Empire Mine State Historic Park by Pat Sullivan

Enjoy a Spring Picnic

Pack up a picnic and head to the Empire Gardens at Empire Mine State Historic Park from 11am to 4pm Sunday. You can visit with the costumes characters in many of the buildings, enjoy music and children’s activities. Food vendors will be available from 11 am to 2pm or you can bring in a picnic lunch to enjoy inside the Park. (Picnics are allowed inside the Historic Grounds & Gardens only 4 days a year!)

More info

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A hiker in Big Basin Redwoods by TrongQuyen Nguyen

Take a Hike

Get mom out of dodge and go enjoy one of the countless hikes in California state parks. Bring her to your favorite trail, or look for new routes recommended by our partner Weekend Sherpa.

If you’d like something a little more organized, join a two and a half mile, two hour guided hike along Mills Creek at Burleigh H. Murray Ranch State Park. Enjoy one of our areas hidden treasures as you learn about the lives of the first pioneers and farming families.

More info

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Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park photo by David Fulmer 

Serve Breakfast in Tent

If your mom is on the more adventurous side, take her camping! Here are some great Bay Area campsites to choose from. In the morning, you can serve her breakfast in her tent.

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Ferry ride to Angel Island

Set Sail

For an extra unique afternoon, treat Mom to a ferry ride to Angel Island, where you can spend the afternoon on a guided hike to Angel Island’s Historic Camp Reynolds, where you’ll be greeted with a pizza lunch at the historic bake house.  After lunch, enjoy mimosas at Battery Ledyard and the best photo ops the Bay Area has to offer of the San Francisco Skyline, San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, hop in an open-air tram for a quick jaunt back to the cafe at Ayala Cove to catch the 3:20 p.m. ferry back to Tiburon.

More info

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Jack London State Historic Park by Kate Dollarhyde

Find Zen

Learn about mindful walking meditation during a 4.5 -mile hike in Jack London State Historic Park on Saturday. Hike leader and docent Jeff Falconer will give an overview at 10 a.m. of walking meditation that has been used as a healing tool during a 1.5-mile hike to Jack London’s lake before you embark on a 3-mile hike, 2-hour hike between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meet at the Ranch parking lot.

More info

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D.L. Bliss State Park by Ray Bouknight

Head to the Lake

You know the ocean beaches, but don’t forget about our lakeside beaches, like Calawee Cove Beach along Lake Tahoe.

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Polo at Will Rogers by Nancy Jackson

Catch a Polo Match

Bring a blanket and a picnic brunch to Will Rogers State Historic Park and watch horses pound up and down the field right before you.  Learn a little bit about polo, watch a match and then hike the park or tour Will Rogers old house (he was a huge horse and polo fan). Matches are free and open to the public all summer.  There are matches most Saturdays from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

More info

Where will you go this Mother’s Day?