Residents living in the park-starved area that sits adjacent to the 710 Freeway and the DeForest Wetlands in North Long Beach could soon see construction begin on the long-awaited 51st Street Greenbelt, which promises lush green space, scenic trails, fitness stations, play areas for children, new trees, native landscaping and stormwater capture systems.

So far, the city has received $3.4 million of the $5.4 million needed to start construction. According to Public Works Department spokesperson Joy Contreras, the city applied for a $2 million grant from Rivers and Mountains Conservancy last month that, if received, will fully fund the project.

The majority of the funding the city has already received comes from $2 million that was allocated by the U.S. Congress in December after being sought by the city and advocated for by Rep. Nanette Barragán, who represents a large part of North Long Beach.

“Low-income communities and communities of color lack access to nearby parks,” said Barragán at a ceremony Tuesday, where she presented the $2 million check to Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, Councilmember Al Austin and the departments of Parks, Recreation and Marine and Public Works. “Half of LA County’s population lives in neighborhoods without access to parks and open space,” she said.

In 2021, the city received $999,115 from the Port of Long Beach Community Grants Program that will be used to complete the park’s landscaping, and it has also gotten $400,000 in Measure A funds, Contreras said.

The redevelopment of the .97-acre parcel of land between 51st Street and 52nd Street will directly benefit a community that “faces higher levels of air pollution, asthma and obesity, which affects life expectancy,” according to a city memo released by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Marine Department in July 2021. “With many of these areas being home to communities of color, having access to parks within a 10-minute walk can directly improve life expectancy for those most vulnerable,” the memo read.

According to Public Works, the city is currently in the design process and will solidify construction plans this summer. The bidding process will begin this fall, and construction will start at the end of this year, according to Contreras.

The target completion date for the 51st Street Greenbelt is fall 2024, Contreras said.

The 51st Street Greenbelt is just one example of the city’s efforts to increase access to green space along the 710 Freeway.

This week, the city received a $30 million federal grant that will help realign Shoreline Drive in Downtown and add acres of usable green space to Cesar Chavez Park, which is currently split up by the northbound lanes that feed into the 710. The grant was secured by Rep. Robert Garcia from the United States Department of Transportation’s new pilot program aimed at reconnecting communities.

The plan is to begin construction on Shoreline sometime in 2025 or 2026, according to Contreras.

$30M grant will help fund dramatic Shoreline Drive overhaul