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.

‘Tis the Season for Winter Camping

There are many wonderful choices for where to camp in California state parks, and now is one of the best times of year to do it, especially in Southern California where summer temperatures can be a little high for many campers. With the weather cooling off though, it’s important to learn a few tips in advance so that you stay warm at night when the temperature drops.

Stay Warm

To make sure you aren’t cold at night, invest in a down or DownTek sleeping bag; it keeps you warm and isn’t too heavy to travel with. Also, make sure you have warm, dry clothing to sleep in, as well as a hat and gloves for the chilly mornings. Wearing wool or moisture-wicking fibers will help keep you dry throughout your camping trip, reducing the need to bring too much extra clothing.

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Cook Good Food

Cold weather camping recipes lend themselves more to hearty stews and chili than summer foods like hot dogs and hamburgers. For a gourmet meal by the fire, bring along your Dutch oven or plan to cook meals in a foil packet over the fire.

For a quick and easy campfire recipe, do some of the prep work at home: slice vegetables and package them in a plastic bag, and create your spice mix for each meal at home, so you don’t need to bring multiple containers. For chili, mix chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and a few bay leaves together and package it in a small plastic baggie. For a chicken stew spice mix, combine sage, basil, thyme, salt, garlic powder, and parsley.

Check out the chart below for tips on what method to use to cook each type of meal.

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For more information on fall camping, read Amy Whitley’s article on Fix.com.

It’s not too late to camp on the Fourth of July

What better way to celebrate our independence than by camping?

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than by camping?

Camping in your local state park is a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July. It is definitely a popular day for camping, but don’t worry if you don’t have a site booked yet — there are still some parks with camp sites available on Thursday, July 4.

Here is a list of state parks with open campsites currently available.

Just don’t wait too much longer, you must book a campsite is 48 hours in advance, which means by Tuesday, July 2.

If you’d rather try your luck, there are also several parks that reserve campsites for first-come, first-served. It’s a bit of a gamble, but it might pay off big! Be sure to go early Thursday morning if you’d like to camp on the Fourth of July, and have a back-up plan just in case.

Happy Independence Day!

April Meteor Showers

Photo by Mike Shoys

Photo by Mike Shoys

Camping in state parks is fun as is, but add in a meteor shower and you could have an amazing camping experience in a state park this weekend.

That’s right … this weekend is the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower.  In California the shower will peak April 21-22 (Sunday night into Monday morning), when you should be able to see one every three to six minutes. The time to see the most meteors will be between 3:45am and 4:30am.

But you’ll need to be far from city lights. What better way to see them than from a state park campsite? So pitch a tent Sunday evening and settle in for a spectacular show.

More tips about how to view the Lyrid Meteor Shower here and here.

Enjoy!