In the industrial neighborhood of South Los Angeles, a 9-acre cement covered lot, which was once an MTA bus depot, has been transformed into vital storm water cleaning wetlands. The South Los Angeles Wetland Park recently opened at the completion of a 3-year, $26 million project to reclaim the land as an artificial eco-system that not only naturally cleans polluted storm water before it runs into the Los Angeles River, but that also provides calming green space for local residents.

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Since the mid-1800s, California has lost as much as 90 percent of its natural wetlands, which has left increasing quantities of industrial and urban pollution caught in storm water free to run into rivers and out into the Pacific Ocean. While artificial wetlands will never be as good at the real thing, the South Los Angeles Wetland Park is a major step towards cleaning up California’s waterways. Funded in part by 2004 Ballot measure Proposition 0 and the EPA’s Urban Water Federal Partnership Pilot, the park features kidney-shaped storm water pools, deep cleaning retention basins, and banks of native plants chosen for their ability to clean water. At full capacity, it will be able to process up to 680,000 gallons of stormwater each day.

There are hopes that the artificial wetlands will also provide increased habitat for wildlife within the urban center. The August F Hawkin’s Natural Park, located a mile from the new Wetlands Park, was completed in 2000. Built on the site of a former cement pipe storage yard, the park is now purported to be home to several species of birds, turtles and even an egret has been seen in the area. The South Los Angeles Wetland Park has been equipped with walkways so that residents can relax and enjoy the natural space and wildlife, though it’ll be a few years before they can enjoy its luscious greenery — after a dry winter, the park’s pollution-saving trees are still very much in their infancy.

+ South Los Angeles Wetland Park

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Renderings via, Photographs © The City Project