My husband and I recently visited a new park in Santa Monica, California, a place we called home for several years while making our respective sojourns through graduate school. I still have fond recollections of living in "The People's Republic of Santa Monica," although, as gentrification of the area has proceeded full-speed in the years since we left, it doesn't have quite the same quirky sensibility it once had.
This visit was prompted by articles announcing the opening of Tongva Park, named after the native American population that once occupied the area, and designed by James Corner, who was also responsible for the famous High Line development in New York City. The park was formally dedicated in mid-October. Built at a cost of $42.3 million on a 6-acre plot of land formerly occupied by the Rand Corporation, the park sits across the street from Santa Monica's City Hall on Main Street and stretches to Ocean Avenue.
|Santa Monica City Hall photographed from across the street at the entrance to Tongva Park|
It was fairly quiet the morning we visited. We were able to find metered parking along Main Street. We were met by this sign.
The sign, with its list of prohibited activities, has received criticism but I have to say the park was remarkably well cared for. Paths, as well as picnic areas, were completely clear of debris. We saw 3 or 4 gardeners at work and a woman in park ranger gear on patrol.
A fountain greeted us at the Main Street entrance.
There were some warning signs there too.
We headed off to the right, past another sign, through an area called Garden Hill.
Wide paths cut through the space, which is heavily planted with climate-appropriate grasses, succulents, trees and other plants.
The off-white tubes you see in the pictures above are part of an LED lighting system.
There were small touches of color but various hues of green foliage dominate the landscape.
|Coral tree blooms|
|Alstroemeria, in pink and peach tones, could be found in spots throughout the park|
|Oxalis in different colors was also found throughout the park|
|As were rain lilies (Zephranthes, I think)|
Wending our way in the direction of Gathering Hill, we found good-sized Plumeria
trees still in bloom and lots of Canna
Gathering Hill has a picnic area with a view of a huge Moreton Bay fig tree (Ficus macrophylla
), locally referred to as "Morty," and 3 other large rusty figs (Ficus Rubiginosa
) referred to as the "Three Amigos." Morty had been part of the old Rand Corporation campus but the other 3 fig trees were moved 550 feet from the intersection of Main Street and Olympic to join Morty in the picnic area (as described here
|Benches and tables are made of non-tropical hardwoods|
|Morty, the Moreton Bay fig tree, is reportedly over a century old|
|Morty has very big feet|
We ate lunches we'd brought with us in the picnic area, then proceeded along the north side of the park toward the area called Observation Hill.
|Ocean Avenue entrance to the park|
|Plants at the base of Observation Hill|
There's another fountain, larger than the one I showed earlier, on this end of the park.
|The Ferris wheel on Santa Monica pier can be seen in the distance in the upper portion of this picture of the west-end fountain|
|Both fountains are lined with large rocks|
There are 2 view points at the top of Observation Hill.
|Stairs beyond the fountain area lead up to Observation Hill|
|Stairway leading down from the top of Observation Hill|
Clematis vines are being trained to grow up the wall enclosing the restrooms.
The restroom area is located roughly in the middle of the park near a large expanse of lawn containing a massive sculptural piece.
|The restroom is on the left and the sculpture is on the right|
|The restrooms are lit by skylights installed at the top of Observation Hill|
|Ampitheater-style seating on the left faces the open lawn area|
Beyond the lawn area and the sculpture is Discovery Hill, designed as a play area for kids.
Asters were blooming all around the play area.
There were a large number of Arbutus 'Marina'
and other trees in the area.
A construction project is underway on the south side of the park. It looks suspiciously like a large condo complex will soon occupy the space on this end of the park. With views of the ocean, pier and the new park, as well as an upscale mall close by, I expect that's going to be very expensive housing, even by southern California standards.
All in all, Tongva is a great park. Should you find yourself in the area, I suggest a visit. You can find additional information here