Earvin “Magic” Johnson park is the future of water conservation

Water is the quintessential paradox of Los Angeles. For many years, the water system in arid and drought-prone L.A. has relied on water pumped in from exterior sources at nice financial, social, and environmental expense. However the water it will get at no cost—via rain and snowmelt off close by mountains—is principally ignored and despatched flowing speedily via its stormwater drains and the channelized Los Angeles River out into the Pacific Ocean. An estimated 100 billion gallons of water is misplaced yearly in Los Angeles County.

A brand new park design is trying to indicate that L.A. doesn’t have to purchase all its water from exterior, and it doesn’t must throw away the water it naturally will get at no cost. By way of a reengineered system of storm drains, pumps, and two lakes that steadily recharge the space’s groundwater, the park is utilizing environmentally acutely aware design to enhance L.A.’s relationship with water.

[Photo: courtesy AHBE/MIG]

Although water shortage is elementary to the id of Los Angeles, it is hardly distinctive to Southern California. As local weather change leads to extra frequent and excessive climate occasions, from floods to droughts, communities and governments round the world need to rethink their entire approach to water. Doing extra to scale back water utilization, and higher harvesting the water every place has, shall be important. L.A. is taking some main steps with this new strategy to parks.

The design is the first phase of a serious renovation of Earvin “Magic” Johnson park, positioned in unincorporated Los Angeles County land in the South L.A. group of Willowbrook. Close to the intersection of two main interstate highways, Willowbrook is a lower-income neighborhood that’s been underserved for years. The 126-acre park was initially designed in the Nineteen Eighties and is the largest open house in South L.A., which has made it a well-liked however closely used public house. “It was primarily turf and timber,” says Gary Lai, principal and director of regenerative design at the planning, design, and panorama structure agency AHBE | MIG, the mission’s prime design marketing consultant. “This is a park that was underdesigned and overutilized for the final 30 years.”


The brand new design exchanges the outdated irrigation-heavy design for a extra regionally applicable panorama, with drought-tolerant vegetation and a marsh-like lakeshore that naturally filters pollution and micro organism from the stormwater coming onto the website. The primary part of the renovation, which was accomplished in January, acts as a stormwater amassing level for 375 acres of the native watershed. One of a rising network of groundwater recharge sites in larger L.A., the park is half of a paradigm shift.

“It is considerably inconceivable that we spend all the cash that we do importing water from the Colorado River and Northern California merely to place it in the floor and irrigate turf and vegetation,” says Dan Lafferty, deputy director of Los Angeles County Public Works. “The extra that we are able to make the most of our present native sources and cut back the reliance on sources which can be so removed from L.A. County, the larger our resiliency is.”

Lafferty calls the park a big step in enhancing native water provides and undoing some of the water engineering errors of the previous that turned L.A.’s rivers, creeks, and waterways from locations for pure recharge to outsized storm drains. “The choices that have been made again in the early half of the twentieth century into the center half of the twentieth century kind of eradicated many of the alternatives we’d have preferred to have seen alongside these watercourses to make them extra pure,” he says. “We’re now how we are able to remake our present landscapes in a means that considerably mimics these pure processes.”

In accordance with Lai, research carried out by the design staff present that the park’s stormwater seize system shall be succesful of recharging the groundwater and irrigating the total 126-acre park, even when the area experiences extended drought.

[Photo: courtesy AHBE/MIG]

Along with these environmental options, the park is additionally a park—with playground amenities, a half-mile strolling loop round the lake, picnic tables, and even these thirsty however much-loved lawns. They’re all components that resulted from intensive public participation throughout the design course of. One other key amenity ensuing from group needs is a 20,000-square-foot group middle, with a versatile occasion house, a business kitchen, three school rooms, and an indoor-outdoor patio house that opens as much as the lakefront. Designed by Paul Murdoch Architects, the constructing is lengthy and low-slung, with a hanging bowtie-shaped roof rising up over the beneficiant indoor occasion house. “We understood fairly clearly how essential an asset this was going to be, so it wanted to announce itself just a little bit from a civic and group level of view,” says architect Paul Murdoch.

[Photo: courtesy AHBE/MIG]

Although the park is filling group and leisure wants, the stormwater seize is the centerpiece of the design. Lai says the environmental advantages it offers might not be what brings folks to the park, however that the park can function a form of software to indicate folks the way it’s doing extra than simply offering a greater public house.

“It’s infrastructure that does all this nice stuff in phrases of cleansing the water, nevertheless it’s additionally infrastructure that the group can use, can see,” Lai says. “We are able to educate the group with this about what we’re doing right here, and get much more help for different comparable tasks.”


Extra could also be on the means. With $300 million in annual funding from a lately authorised countywide measure that goals to assist seize some of the 100 billion gallons which can be misplaced yearly, the county is hoping that classes discovered from this park renovation will assist information the creation of new websites the place water is collected as an alternative of thrown away.

“This is the subsequent era in phrases of water conservation,” says Lafferty. “Over the subsequent 20 years or so that you’re going to see these sorts of tasks be the template and the mannequin for future tasks.”