San Fernando Valley

Nice personal take on saving Los Encinos park

los-encinos-saved-rabe.jpgRob Eshman, the editor of the Jewish Journal, devotes his editor's letter this week to the little Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino that the state wants to close for budget reasons. It may be the birthplace of the San Fernando Valley as we know it, but it doesn't bring in revenue so the bean counters say the green space and historic buildings are expendable. Neighbors are working to stave off the closure, and as we ">reported last month, an anonymous donor has stepped forward with $150,000 to get the park through this year. Eshman endorses the effort.

I didn’t visit the park in order to write this story, because I don’t have to: I know it like I know my backyard. I grew up in Encino, about a half mile from the park, and Los Encinos was my personal retreat, my youth’s ideal companion. It’s where I went to read a book, to daydream the spring into Walden Pond, to picnic on the Tempo falafels from across the boulevard.

I’m writing this to pay the park back for all those peaceful moments, and to pay it forward for the next bookish, sensitive teenager who needs a refuge from suburbia....

How ironic that we send money to buy trees for parks in Israel, and let one just down the block from us languish.

lang-oak-lapl.jpgEncino's past and present is intimately linked to trees. The original Mexican rancho and the present-day community are named for the California Live Oak trees that still shade its older streets, the most impressive and ancient trees in the city of Los Angeles. A half-mile from Los Encinos, the Lang Oak — city historic-cultural monument #24 — used to stand in the center of Louise Avenue. It fell during a storm in 1998, revealing itself to be about 1,000 years old. The oak did not pass unnoticed, as I observed in The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb.

Admirers came all weekend to gawk at the limbs, while city crews sought equipment stout enough to penetrate the massive trunk. Some neighbors who had tended the giant through infections, car crashes and numerous storms carried souvenir branches as they left, wiping away tears. The Times headline the next day captured the sentiment: "If a Tree Falls in the Valley, We All Hear It."

Even 14 years later, the Lang Oak that most Angelenos never saw (though the stump and a marker remain) has a Facebook page and a Wikipedia entry.

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Recently posted at LA Observed:
Donor puts up $150,000 to keep Rancho Los Encinos open
Valley of 'It's A Wonderful Life'
New York Times declares war on Encino

Top photo from January: John Rabe; lower photo of Lang Oak, Los Angeles Public Library.

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