Long Beach is applying for nearly $1 million in state grants to continue work on developing Willow Springs Park, a 47-acre property owned by the City of Long Beach located off of Orange Avenue between Willow and Spring streets.
The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously at its Nov. 19 meeting to have City Manager Pat West submit two grant applications to the State of California Strategic Growth Council.
The City is applying for up to $924,000 in funding through the State’s Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Program provided through Proposition 84 to pay for the Willow Springs Wetlands project. In addition, the City is applying for up to $75,000 for smaller projects proposed by “disadvantaged communities,” according to a staff report.
Seventh District Councilmember James Johnson, who has been heavily involved in kick-starting the park development, said in an email that the money, if received from the State, would be used to improve the wetlands at Willow Springs Park, which is part of the Willow Springs Master Plan.
“We have already made it through the preliminary rounds of this grant process, so we are optimistic about our chances of achieving funding,” he said, adding that the grant comes on top of $1 million in one-time funds the City has recently set aside for the park’s development. “We are currently discussing what the best next steps are to further improve the property given the funds available.”
According to a staff report, the up to $924,000 grant, sought by the City’s Office of Sustainability, would go toward finalizing the design and development of the wetlands. The City has also secured $400,000 of additional funds for the wetlands project through a Southern California Association of Governments grant, as well as a one-time allocation to parks, playgrounds and libraries in the Fiscal Year 2014 adopted budget.
The Public Works Department is seeking up to $75,000 in funds for landscape improvements on a vacant median adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway and east of the Terminal Island Freeway. The department is working in collaboration with the Century Villages at Cabrillo to implement the project.
The proposed regional park, which Johnson has called “the biggest park in Long Beach since 1952” since the City first opened El Dorado Park on the east side of town, is expected to include hiking trails, small shade structures, a visitor center, a BMX-bike track, a dog park, community gardens, a farm and associated parking spaces.
Though the City has owned the property for more than a century, it has sat undeveloped. Last year, however, the first four acres of the park opened up as a hilltop plaza called Longview Point– considered the highest point in Long Beach– just above the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery. The plaza includes a 7,850-square-foot topographical map of Southern California.
Johnson said his office is continuing to seek every possible source of funding for the park but added that he is pleased with the progress the City has made so far.
“In just a few short years, we have opened the first phase of the park, approved a master plan and secured significant funding,” Johnson said. “I will continue to work with the community to move this project forward one step at time.” ß