By Ted AYALA
On Tuesday night the Glendale City Council gave the green light to staff to move forward with an application for grants that would go toward improving Deukmejian Wilderness Park.
The grants are issued by Los Angeles County under its Regional Park and Open Space District 2015 countywide competitive grant program. Grant monies are allocated from remaining Prop A funds collected by the county under its rivers and streams categories. Projects eligible for these grant funds include the creation of new recreation facilities, as well as parks and trails involving the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. Deukmejian’s proximity to Big Tujunga Creek makes it eligible for the grants.
City Manager Scott Ochoa touted the move as increasing awareness of Deukmejian for residents, as well as for visitors from outside Glendale.
“This will really let [them] know that this asset exists,” he said.
At the core of the grant initiative would be the refurbishment of the Le Mesnager barn at Deukmeijian.
City staff have indicated plans that would turn the barn into an educational and recreational center.
Glendale acquired Deukmejian in 1988, but progress on Le Mesnager has been slow-going due to funding issues. The refurbishment of the facility has undergone several phases since the city drew up its master plan for the park in 1992.
Just last week council approved plans to construct a new floor for the barn, with a call for bids set to go out within the next week.
According to Jess Duran, director of Parks and Recreation, the “ultimate goal” for the city would be to open the barn by 2017.
As it currently stands, the barn is only a shell. But the final elements in the barn’s rehabilitation would be to refurbish its interior, with spaces along its sides set aside for exhibits and displays, and the construction of outside restrooms. City staff said that 25% of the exhibit space would be set aside with “displays and narrative” concerning the L.A. River.
Councilmember Laura Friedman praised the project, saying that its use as both an educational and recreational facility would ensure the project would “pay for itself.”
She also encouraged city staff to coordinate with Stuart Byles, who along with volunteers with the Stonebarn Conservancy currently tends to the barn’s grapevines, to find a way to move the plants in order to ensure improved access to the facilities.
“[Doing so] would make it more valuable for groups,” she said. “It would be an outdoor area that would be very accessible.”
Mayor Ara J. Najarian had initially expressed skepticism over the Deukmejian project, concerned that much of the money it allocated from downtown redevelopment could be put to better use in the area from which it was collected. But he was eventually won over by the project, expressing that despite its distance from the downtown, Deukmejian’s improvements would be a boon for the whole city.
“The programming of this barn will provide a lot of activities and education from our urban core,” he said.