Deforest Park in line for improvements after City Council vote

Deforest Park could be headed toward a makeover after the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a vision plan that includes two non-profits moving into the park to work on conservation and developing the existing park.

The park is located along the 710 Freeway just south of the 91 Freeway in North Long Beach with the Los Angeles River serving as a buffer between the park and the greenbelt which also includes the Deforest Wetlands, something the city began improving in 2015.

With the votes taken by the council Tuesday, including approving a vision plan for the park, additional development of the park could soon be underway. The Conservation Corps of Long Beach and Camp Fire Angeles were also granted right of entry permits.

The conservation corp is expected to build a satellite office along the Los Angeles River while Camp Fire is expected to build a series of discovery trails through the park, campsites as well as an environmental classroom that could provide educational opportunities for community members.

“You can go camping in North Long Beach, it will be great,” said Councilman Rex Richardson who represents the area that includes Deforest Park. “You’ll be right by the river.”

Richardson said that reintegrating programming back into the park is critical since Deforest was one of the smaller parks throughout the city that lost its programming years ago to larger parks around them.

Having the Conservation Corps and Camp Fires as presences in the park will not only add to the aesthetics of the park, Richardson said, but it will help keep the area safer and cleaner.

Adding a campsite to Deforest would also help replace a former campsite that existed near North Long Beach prior to being lost to the construction of the 91 Freeway.

The improvements made to the park will not only create recreation and learning opportunities, Richardson said, but it could also help out the surrounding property values because of the quality of development expected to take place at Deforest Park.

“Their [surrounding residents] park is going to be incredible,” he said. “When they’re done it’s going to be like having a really nice gem.”

Funding for the projects currently allow for just the introductory elements of the vision plan to be completed, but more funding could be leveraged from federal, state and local grant opportunities.

The two non-profits have already received more than $1.8 million to begin on those projects from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy and from the Port of Long Beach. Future funding could be tapped from those same sources, especially the port which often offsets new development at the port complex by investing in local park projects.

In 2019, the Harbor Commission approved $26 million to connect the Colorado Lagoon to the Marine Stadium channel to offset future projects that might take away from existing marine environments.

Other elements included in the vision plan were fitness stations, walking and bike paths, concession stands as well as other improvements to the existing park space and sports fields.

Editors note: The story has been updated to show Councilman Rex Richardson said “gem”, not “gym”.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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