Southern California is filled with dozens of state parks which preserve the history, culture, and beauty of the Southland. Due to California’s budget woes, many of our parks are facing closures and while communities are rallying behind their beloved parks, they may not be able to save them all from the looming July 1st closure date. Here is a look at LA County’s State Historic Parks, including a few which may be forced to close for good.
Open Wednesday – Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4
One of only nine works of folk art listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Watts Towers stands as a tribute by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia to his adopted country and the dreams that come true in the US. 17 sculptural pieces which took 30 years to build, including two that rise nearly 100 feet in the air make up Rodia’s “Nuestro Pueblo”. The outdoor structures can be viewed any time but tours are offered Thursday & Friday 11-3:00, Saturday 10:30-3:00, or Sunday 12-3:00. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for Seniors and teens, and children 12 & under are free.
Housed in a chalet built by a homesteader in 1928 surrounded by large rock formations, the Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park features exhibits on American Indians of the Southwest, Great Basin, and California. Admission is $3 for adults and kids under 13 are free. The museum is home to 7,500 Native American artifacts and artworks. Special docent led tours are available on Thursdays by appointment only. This park is on the state park closure list and could close this July.
Open weekends 11-4
Open daily from 8-sunset
This new park which opened in 2006 transformed 32 acres near Chinatown into a space to walk, picnic, and enjoy community events with the downtown skyline as your backdrop. This piece of land was once part of a large Tongva village, the location of Southern Pacific Railroad’s old River Station, and the Pacific Hotel which once served “25 minute meals” to passengers passing through the area. Though plans for development have been slowed by the state’s budget woes, but plans for a native wetland habitat along the Los Angeles River are in the works, a living wildflower sculpture is being developed at the north end of the park, and various festivals and events are held throughout the year.
Open Wednesday-Sunday 10- 5
Back before there was traffic on corner of Balboa and Ventura Blvd. there was Rancho El Encino. This spot was the center of the population of the San Fernando Valley during the 19th century due to its natural spring flowing with precious water. Today this 5 acre park is being threatened with budget-related closures but the community is rallying hard to raise$150,000 to keep the park open. The park is popular with families for picnic, feeding the ducks at the spring fed pond, and tours of the recently refurbished De la Ossa Adobe. This park was on the state park closure list but a private donor donated funds to keep the park open for at least another year.
Open daily 8-sunset
Once the most popular actor in the entertainment industry, Will Rogers is true Hollywood royalty. During the 1920’s Rogers built a ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean which included a 31-room ranch house, a stable, riding ring & roping arena, polo field, and even a golf course. The ranch became a state park in 1944 and today visitors can enjoy hikes, ranch tours, and horseback rides on Will Roger’s beloved trails. Matches are held on polo grounds all summer long and horseback riding lessons are offered for those lucky enough to live nearby.
Once upon a time, Pio Pico was the most important man in all of California. He served as governor in 1832 and then again during the Mexican-American War while owning a 9,000 acre ranch, Rancho Paso de Bartolo. Today most of his ranch has been consumed by the massive urban sprawl of LA but 5 acres have been set aside to preserve his original adobe home and his legacy. Picnics in the park and tours of the 15 room adobe are the top activities enjoyed by visitors. This park is on the state park closure list and may close in July.
Set in the boulder strewn Simi Hills, Santa Susana Pass SHP is a great place for Valley dwellers to escape the concrete and enjoy the very land that Native Americans and stage coach passengers have for generations. The park includes land that was once part of Spahn Ranch (of Charles Manson fame) and was used for many decades as a movie ranch. Though this park was put on the closure list, it did manage to raise the $21,000 it needed to stay open for at least one more year.
Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor in Chief of Trekaroo.