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Pico Rivera is Severely Lacking in Park and Open Space…. But Help is On The Way

Pico Rivera Mayor Dr. Monica Sánchez

 

July 7, 2022

By Mayor Dr. Monica Sánchez

The City of Pico Rivera is severely lacking in park and open space for its residents and it’s about to get worse. That lack of parks and open space means our residents cannot easily access recreational opportunities that studies show reduce the incidence of depression, anxiety, stress, and that generally promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity.

 According to the 2016 Los Angeles County Parks Needs Assessment, the average Angelino has access to 3.3 acres of park space per 1,000 residents.  In Pico Rivera, our residents only have access to 1.3 acres of park space per 1,000 residents.  Put another way, our residents have access to 60% less park space than the average Angelino.

 And now, through no fault of their own, things are going to get much worse for our already park-poor community.   

 In 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) began the Whitter Narrows Dam Safety Modification Project, a package of urgent repairs on what is one of the most at-risk dams in the United States.  While the project will help protect over 25 cities and some 1.1 million Angelenos from potentially catastrophic flooding, it will come at a considerable and disproportionate loss of open space for our residents.   

To complete the project, the Corps is reassuming over 104-acres of park and recreational space including Streamland Park, the Pico Rivera Golf Course, Bicentennial Park, and Sports Arena Drive, which is the primary access road to the nationally recognized Pico Rivera Sports Arena.

 The resulting loss land –accounting for over 57% of the city’s parks and recreational open space—will push Pico Rivera well below 1.0 acres of park space per 1,000 residents, a devastating blow for a community already desperate for safe, outdoor recreational spaces. 

 Despite the impact, our residents and I support the urgent repairs and upgrades to the Dam.  In fact, the City of Pico Rivera has undertaken an information campaign to raise public awareness about the project, the risk, the impacts and our support of the Corps. What we cannot support is sitting idly by as our park-poor community loses over half of the little park space available to our residents.

 Our only viable option is to enhance the park space our community has left and revitalize major corridors such as the rivers to incorporate new park space wherever possible.

 Thankfully, our State legislators agreed, and help is on the way.  While the 2023 State Budget was under development, Senator Bob Archuleta, Assemblymember Lisa Calderon, who will begin representing Pico Rivera later this year, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia requested $8.5 million to renovate and revitalize Rio Hondo Park and another $8.5 million to renovate and rehabilitate the Smith Park Aquatic Center. On June 30th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the $308 billion state budget bill into law, inclusive of these requests.

 Rio Hondo Park has been a centerpiece of the Pico Rivera community since the park was established 63 years ago. However, due to extreme demand for park programming and the lack of park space in the city, the park is over-used and in a dire state of decline. The athletic fields have been reduced to dead grass and dirt making for harsh playing conditions; the handball and basketball courts represent decades of patchwork repairs to concrete and asphalt; and the restrooms are non-compliant with ADA requirements. Moreover, the lack of adequate lighting has turned the park into a haven for gangs. Come nightfall, illicit activities at the park impose a de facto curfew on residents, effectively robbing them of safe, evening-hour programming and park activities.

 The Smith Park Aquatic Center was constructed as a training facility for the 1984 Summer Olympics and has been operated by the City as a public pool ever since. It is the only public pool in the City and serves as a critical community resource that provides a safe place for our residents to learn to swim and stay cool during the hot summer months. The El Rancho Unified School District has also requested to use the Aquatics Center to maintain their swim team and water polo programs. The pool has remained closed due to failures of both the pump and boiler systems, which have not been replaced since it was built.

 The much-needed investments to renovate and revitalize Rio Hondo Park and the Smith Park Aquatic Center will go a long way toward affording our residents the open parks space they deserve. 

 We are thankful to Senator Bob Archuleta, Assemblymember Lisa Calderon and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia for serving as our champions and who fought to secure the resources our community needs.

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