Miriam Mulder, city architect (front) with Karen Ginsberg, director of community and cultural services, Photo by Westside People
Karen Ginsberg stopped what she was saying in Santa Monica’s Tongva Park when a man caught her attention tearing a leaf from a small tree. The 6-acre park opened in September and has fared well during a statewide water shortage because of its drought-tolerant native plants.
For Ginsberg watching a man tear a leaf from a tree felt personal. The director of Community and Cultural Services has a special connection to the park, having played an integral part in its planning beginning in 2005.
“This isn’t your typical park,” Ginsberg said. “It functions in a way that parks often don’t, like an artery.”
At its most functional, the park connects the Civic Center, Palisades Park and the downtown area, creating a pleasant way to get from one point to another. At its most cerebral, the park is a piece of urban artwork unparalleled by most public open space.
Curved pathways wind through varied hillsides including a lookout on the west end. Public art pieces like the stand of steel windmills and a sleek water feature that extends from one end of the park to the other truly make Tongva Park an urban gem. Not to be forgotten, it also boasts one of the coolest playgrounds for kids in the city.
The 6-acre park was designed by New York-based James Corner Field Operations and the water feature by Fluidity Design Consultants. The park joins 27 public spaces in the city, not to mention the beachfront.
“Even with the limitations in the acreage and inability to acquire land because we’re a built out city, we’ve taken advantage of what we’ve been able to do,” Ginsberg said. “I would say that’s a testament to our council and the priorities the community has set for the need for open space.”