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Islands in the Street: Turning Gray Space Green

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. In recognition of its partnership and community engagement efforts, Avalon & Gage Park has been named a Frontline Park.

AG1IntAvalon & Gage is a vibrant, eco-friendly oasis and public green space situated on a traffic island at a busy intersection in South Los Angeles. Built in partnership between the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), and nearly a dozen local organizations and businesses, this 1/3-acre lot has been transformed from a barren plaza into a welcoming neighborhood park with amenities for all ages. 

The traffic median at Avalon Boulevard and East Gage Avenue demarcates residential and industrial zones and sits along a major public transit line. Improvements were made to the space for transit riders, but many eschewed the sun-exposed benches and chairs for the meager shade of a nearby telephone pole. In 2009, the Community and Neighbors for Ninth District Unity (CANNDU) approached LANLT about transforming the median into a neighborhood park. After spending years negotiating with the city’s public works and general services departments, LANLT secured a ten-year lease on the parcel (which will revert to city parks department ownership after it lapses), and set to work bringing a new park to an incredibly dense, low-income community that includes more than 11,000 children under the age of 10.

Since it opened, Avalon and Gage Park has been highly utilized and has become a true gathering space for the community, where kids from different blocks play together and their parents and caretakers get to know each other despite language barriers and old cultural tensions. The park’s 20-person steering community reflects the neighborhood, where black and Latino communities are evenly represented and equally invested in the future of their park. Not only has the project been successful, it has strengthened LANLT’s knowledge base and created a replicable standard for developing small vacant spaces into parks while simultaneously alleviating environmental degradation, improving health outcomes, and increasing air and water quality.

As a Frontline Park, Avalon & Gage Park will be featured on the City Parks Alliance website.

The Frontline Parks program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

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