Malibu’s ‘Central Park’ opens to begin a legacy

Legacy Park, located on a property that has been called the ‘crown jewel’ of Malibu, will serve the dual purpose of a passive park and a storm water treatment facility. Not everybody is happy with the project because it does not address wastewater. A lawsuit regarding Legacy Park is pending.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

Approximately 200 people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday morning for the grand opening of the $35 million Legacy Park. The 15-acre park is located along Pacific Coast Highway between Webb Way and Cross Creek Road on the land formerly known as the Chili Cook-Off site. It functions as a storm water treatment facility in connection with the plant at the corner of Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road and as a tranquil passive park for locals and tourists.

“This is our new clean machine,” said Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner to the celebration’s attendees.

The property, which was previously owned by the Malibu Bay Co., had been proposed for development. The city purchased the land in 2006 for $25 million with money obtained through certificates of participation (COPs), which are similar to bonds, as well as grants and local donations. Another $10 million raised through the same methods was spent to construct the park.

A path on the spacious park winds around large, artsy statues of indigenous animals accompanied by educational plaques amid the purple pipes that re-route the treated water.

“We’ve banned plastic bags, cigarettes and polystyrene foam from use in our city,” said Wagner, adding Legacy Park to what he called Malibu’s impressive green track record.

“This is more than just green space,” said Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert, a scientist who delivered a detailed explanation of how the park captures, treats and channels stormwater run-off into the Pacific Ocean. “All of it from the hillside that drains in the area, from the Colony, will be treated right here. Bacteria will be separated and water will be used for irrigation by the 25 miles of purple pipe under here.”

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Malibu) was in attendance for the celebration as well as representatives of Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Malibu) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Joining the current City Council on the speakers’ stage were several former mayors who were in office during the project’s development.

“We stood out in front of that Ralphs with that infamous tin cup and we raised money,” said former Mayor Ken Kearsley, pointing toward the supermarket. He thanked City Manager Jim Thorsen and the rest of the municipal staff for their efforts. He also recognized Susan Shaw, who headed the fundraising effort.

Friends of Kearsley and his wife, the Clark family, contributed a statue to the park of a boy with swim goggles and a bucket, modeled after 3-year-old Kyle Clark. The sculptors, Randy Buck and Candy Allen, were in attendance, as was Robin Indar, the Chico-based artist behind the mosaic animal statues who, with assistant Sarah Campbell, spent a year readying eight sculptures laden with tiles that quirkily abstracted feathers on the burrowing owl, bumps on the Western toad’s throat and scales on the California mountain king snake. Bob Harris, of Malibu Ceramics Works in Topanga, did the park’s tile work and supplied the Malibu tile that was incorporated into the ceremony’s award plaques.

City Councilmembers Pamela Conley Ulich, Laura Rosenthal, and Lou La Monte recognized fundraisers and donors, including Anita Green, Steve Soboroff, the Annenberg Foundation, the Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy (MCLC), Malibu Country Mart and Koss Real Estate Investments.

Rosenthal pointed to a silky green layer of hydroseeding.

“This is where 200,000 plants are going to come from,” she said, while noting the park’s 700 native trees of 12 different species. Rosenthal said after the event that people should not walk on the hydroseeding so that it is not disturbed during its growth.

Also in attendance was MCLC member and major benefactor Ozzie Silna, the namesake of the wood-bridge walkway prefacing the park – a gateway to paths leading to the coastal bluffs, wet meadow and riparian corridor.

This was a festive affair, but Legacy Park is not celebrated by everybody. Several major environmentalists, including Heal the Bay have criticized the project because it does not address wastewater. The Santa Monica Baykeeper sued over what it says are flaws in the project. The city won at the trial level, and the case is currently on appeal.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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