Willow Springs Park has been a part of Long Beach’s history over the past couple of decades, and local residents were eager to start hiking and viewing the park’s landmarks at the grand re-opening on Oct. 21.
In 1881, the park supplied citizens of Willmore City, Long Beach’s original town, with water from an artesian spring tap, which is also where the name Willow Springs Park originated.
The City began discussing development plans for the park in 1920 that included installing a lake, swimming pool, Greek theater, golf course, wetlands and open space.
However, at the grand opening, 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga explained that the discovery of oil in 1921 delayed the original plans for Willow Springs Park.
Uranga also explained how the park will benefit residents.
“It’s an opportunity to exercise, to hike,” he said. “I understand that there are some schools that come up here and do some cross-country running, as well. So, it’s an opportunity for people to enjoy it, not only for the citizens or residents of this district, but everybody. Everyone can come up here and enjoy a nice hike. On Fourth of July– in fact– you can come up here, you can look out and you can see all the great, wonderful illegal fireworks.”
In celebration of the most recent development, Meredith Reynolds, park development officer for the Department of Parks, Recreation & Marine, explained that the history of the park was one of the reasons for the new model.
“This master plan– guided by input and feedback from the community– focused on creating 48 acres of natural open space that incorporated the topography of the land, the history of the site and ways to teach children and families about the environment,” Reynolds said.
The whole park is 48 acres, but Reynolds explained that the re-opening celebrated the construction of the 12 acres of wetlands.
Developing the park also included revitalizing the water system.
“The project capitalizes on an 18,000-square-foot water basin that’s been here since the early 1900s that collects stormwater from the 405 Freeway,” Reynolds said. “A filtration system was installed– powered by a solar-shade structure that drives power to a water pump– and then several spring-like features that mimic the original spring were constructed, which pulled this water from the basin to the biosoil system, and gravity flows to some seasonal wetlands on the low-lying area of the park. This water-filtration system increases the water quality by keeping the water on site, recharging the groundwater through infiltration and protecting the ocean from polluted runoff.”
New improvements included the addition of 11 acres of California native drought-tolerant plants and tree species, along with 108,000 square feet of native seed. Reynolds also explained that educational signs were placed near historical landmarks, and an outdoor classroom was created to promote environmental education and school programs.
In the end, Willow Springs Park is entering its new beginning as a local spot for members of the community to take part in.
“From hiking to nature exploration to educational experiences,” Reynolds said, “this project will enhance educational activities and much needed open space for Long Beach residents.”