Looking Back: Moments in the History of NELA’s Parks

2018 April Columnists Editions Joe Walker

When you consider the effort it is taking to build a dog park within the Eagle Rock Recreation Center, it is all the more remarkable to recall the effort that went into building the park in the first place.

In 1954, the dream of establishing a park in the shadow of the Eagle Rock was fulfilled with the opening of what was then known as the “Clubhouse –” the combination gym, performance space and meeting area designed by the renowned architect, Richard Neutra. But the park itself was little more than an un-landscaped expanse with a small children’s play area.

Sixty years ago, on April 19, 1958, shortly after a citywide bond issue earmarked large sums of money for parks and recreation, a plan was announced to improve and expand the park by adding a softball field, two baseball diamonds, picnic areas, an archery area, shuffleboard courts and horseshoe pits.


1961: A young crew plants trees on the paved path between the clubhouse and the lower picnic areas. The baseball fields are finished. (Photo by Joe Friezer / Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society)

Another big effort to build a park got underway in Northeast Los Angeles 10 years later, in April, 1968, when L.A. City Councilmember Arthur K. Snyder and L.A County Supervisor Ernest Debs teamed up to urge the county to buy 305 acres of land bordered by the Pasadena Freeway, Monterey Road and Mercury Avenue. Originally called the Rose Hills Regional Park, it was eventually named the Ernest Debs Park for the county supervisor who championed the project.

2 thoughts on “Looking Back: Moments in the History of NELA’s Parks

  1. You wrote an article in July 2014 about the 50th anniversary of the murder (bombing) of Sandra de la Pena in Eagle Rock. I was just 10 years old and lived 2 houses away from her. My brother was the first one to see her trying to crawl up the sidewalk. We are very curious to know if anyone have ever been charged with this murder??

  2. Hi Donna,,
    I don’t write for the Blvd Sentinel anymore but am still a big fan. I just saw this post by accident today. I know the Dela Pena case very well. It is widely felt that her husband set the bomb that killed her. The working theory is that he called her from work–which was the Eagle Rock Fire Station, and got her to open the door which triggered the explosion. He was a suspect for many years, but the case became very convoluted when it was discovered that she was having an affair with a local handyman and the police picked him up and kept him for several days until they kicked him loose. Of course, none of that was in the L.A. Times, and when I interviewed a neighbor who heard the explosion, they knew nothing about this part of the story. I was told several years ago that as recently as 2015, LAPD detectives still were investigating leads into this cold case. But, no one has ever been charged.

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