By Bill Hendrickson
In an exemplary display of cooperation between community leaders and state and local officials, $7.5 million has been secured to upgrade three soccer fields and other facilities at Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park. The planned improvements to the fields include lighting, converting two dirt fields to synthetic durable turf and striping the fields for both soccer and football.
Other planned improvements include new restrooms, upgrades to the parking lot and walking paths and planting more tress.
The effort to raise the money dates to 2019. Raúl Macías, founder and president of the Anahuak Soccer Youth Association and Jon Christensen, a board member of the environmental nonprofit L.A. River State Park Partners, began working together for changes that would balance the need for active recreation in the park, including athletic fields and playgrounds, with the passive enjoyment of nature, including wetlands and river habitat restoration.
Their efforts have culminated in the $7.5 million committed so far. Of the total, more than half — $4.75 million — is from the state, thanks to the leadership of NELA’s state legislators, Senator Maria Elena Durazo and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. Another $2.75 million is from various city sources, thanks to leadership by Council District 1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo.
The City Department of Recreation and Parks has applied for an addition $1.5 million in funding from the Locally-Operated State Parks Program.
Durazo, Carrillo and Cedillo were at the park on Monday to celebrate the funding along with Armando Quintero, the director of California State Parks, and Michael Shull, general manager of the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks.
For Cedillo, who has made public parks in CD 1 a priority, the significance of the funding goes beyond just paying for improvements. “This commitment to public space is where democracy lives in our society,” he told the Sentinel. “It’s where everybody is equal, it’s where everybody should be equal. It should have places for young people for recreation, passive parts for people who want to stroll and adequate restrooms. That’s the job that we have and that’s our commitment.”