Extending the East San Fernando Valley Nature Parkway

Revitalize underutilized sidewalks into urban trails to increase walkability and connectivity for active and healthier lifestyles.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Increase environmental benefits like open space, recreational opportunities , and walkability; promoting alternative economic generators.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

San Fernando Valley

What is your idea/project in more detail?

For families to minimize their carbon footprint and enhance their well-being by revitalizing sidewalks into xeriscape urban trails. In the East San Fernando Valley, a California native plant garden exists called the Nature Parkway. We plan to extend it to permeable sidewalk to increase walkability and connect families to local parks, schools, gardens, bike paths and businesses. Urban trail maps will be distributed through various sources to heighten the level of awareness of the community’s natural habitat and safe streets for accessible recreation. Signage on the Nature Parkway will educate folks on the type of plants used, mile marks will help track users' fitness goals and local businesses will see increased foot traffic.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

This project will be building off of the success of the existing Nature Parkway. First we will re-engage the Friends of the Nature Parkway made up of community groups, organizations, businesses, students and residents who were instrumental in establishing the Nature Parkway and still are involved in maintaining the urban trail. The first phase of community dialogue events will inform the local community about how to get involved with revitalizing their sidewalk spaces into safe urban trails. Surveys will be collected to inform us the extent of current sidewalk space utilization.

Through a community involved assessment, the pre-selected sidewalks connecting to the existing Nature Parkway, will identify the type of beautification resources needed for each block. Whether it is planning more native plants, covering areas with decomposed granite or cleaning the current landscape, a log of needs will inform the beautification plan. The main project leaders will be responsible for acquiring all necessary permits. A partial allocation of awarded funds will be used to offer light food and refreshments to community members who are involved the process. Informational signage for the type of plants used will be designed and installed. The signs will look similar to what is seen in local city and state parks. The result will be a detailed list of the number of tools and other resources to revitalize sidewalks into complete urban trails.

Our ongoing contributors and LA 2050 funding will make gathering all of the resources required possible to complete the beautification phases. We will outreach to local surrounding businesses to attain the right tools to complete the Nature Parkway project. Community events that provide connections to community resources, free delicious healthy food, hydration stations and fun will create a public space for community members to unite for a common cause. These events will be open to all community residents and businesses that have a stake in this community investment. We will outreach to nearby schools, community organizations and other members using social media outlets. Groups will be made up of folks who either want to plant, remove debris, or install signage along the Nature Parkway. These volunteers will be made up of original and new Friends of the Nature Parkway. Our relationship and increased engagement will be made possible by facilitating continuous communication in a public sphere.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Historically the East San Fernando Valley experienced racial segregation and continuous resource disparities which negatively affected the built environment and health of its residents. In one of the target neighborhoods, Pacoima, residents experience some of the highest rates of obesity (17%) and asthma (20%.) Our neighborhoods are park poor (54 acres) and decades of unregulated business activity attributed to increased levels of toxicity. Specifically, this project’s safe urban trails will bring together Pacoima, Arleta and Mission Hills through safe walkable sidewalks. Stakeholders will have an aesthetic drought resistant landscaped path that is long term self-sustaining, uses minimal water, while restoring the user’s health and balancing the eco-system. Urban trail maps will help all visitors and locals to recognize and use the revitalized environment which helps to make them feel safer, healthier and better connected to the services and goods they require. Together we will put more eyes on the street and leave the car in the garage.

Community stewardship will form a sense of ownership for the project because the sidewalk will be restored by every one of us. Those who partake in the planting will be able to adopt the plant and secure its longevity. Children and adults alike will be establishing roots in our community. A powerful method to bring along change in our community is to offer opportunities for education and hands on experience. The main group of organizers will produce a revitalization plan that has minimal maintenance while mimicking natural systems to create beautiful living spaces that nourish people and celebrate nature.

The project will also be a place to learn how to maintain a clean and healthy environment as well as establishing a more active lifestyle. Informational signage will be installed, similar to what is seen in local city and state parks. Mile markers along the path will help the user track their distance in the hopes that they reach their fitness goals. The user will be informed on how the habitat enhances not only their well-being but also that of the native animals. Local schools will now have an accessible native plant path enabling hands on learning. Children will become health champions. Minimizing our carbon footprint by being on foot or bicycle can increase mobility, put more eyes on the street, increase community stewardship and stimulate local business activity.

Whom will your project benefit?

The project will benefit the densely populated communities living in close proximity to four connected streets (Devonshire St., Canterbury Ave., Van Nuys Blvd., and San Fernando Rd.) , approximately a 7 mile distance. All stakeholders ranging from households, to educators, to business owners will benefit. When residents feel safe to walk in their neighborhoods instead of jumping into their car, residents will re-familiarize themselves with the type of pedestrian friendly culture they or their older relatives’ experience before coming to this country.

From an early age small children will grow up knowing walking up and down urban trails is the thing to do. This opportunity will secure them with the safety they need to grow stronger. Playing outside and discovering the animals that use the urban trail as their habitat can be a game of show and tell for parent and child. The expanded tree canopy coverage would be ideal for parents to push strollers and for seniors to increase mobility. Parents can feel secure to let their children off the stroller since the extra green foliage will act as a buffer between them and the street.

For school children to be part of a LA2050 initiative that makes their own LA neighborhood a better place to live will make them long term community stewards for a better well-being. Walking to and from school can be their new norm. Along the trail exists three schools with approximately 3300 students cumulatively and one highly used park. The urban trails will better connect them to their school and park of choice.

Canterbury Avenue has a very special grove, lined with nurseries and community gardens. The urban trail will create a safe path to Arleta High School, Beachy Ave. Elementary School, Canterbury Elementary and Branford Park. An opportunity exists to bring the first farmer’s market to this area. The uptick in foot traffic and increase promotion through the urban trail map will stimulate the local economy.

San Fernando Road stretches over 1.5 miles for residents to walk, ride, or run. The busy street is well lit and plants are starting to grow and blossom bright floral colors. It is already highly utilized because of the number of commuter bus stops. On Van Nuys Blvd. a color explosion occurred when youth driven art mural projects started to replace graffiti. Along the pathway users have accessibility to city resources through the neighborhood City Hall offices, postal office, library, health services and restaurants.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.


Friends of the Nature Parkway: Offices of Congreesman Tony Cardenas, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Senator Padilla, Assemblymember Bocanegra, LA City Councilmembers Nury Martinez and Felipe Fuentes; Students from: Arleta High School Eco-Club, Valor Academy, San Fernando High School, Neighborhood Councils: Mission Hills, Arleta, Pacoima, Panorama City; Community Based Organizations: Initiating Change in Our Neighborhood, Comision Femenil SFV, Los Angeles City Waste Management, Laborer Locals 300; Neighborhood Watch Groups: Mission Area LAPD, Mission Hills Basic Car, Arleta Community Watch Dogs; Tajo Landscape


Community bike and ride groups; community gardeners; LA Street Vendors Campaign; Northeast Valley Health Corporation, Valley Care Community Consortium, LA Food Policy Council; Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti; LAUSD Board member , Monica Ratlliff; Sylmar High School Horticulture Department; San Fernando Community Health Center, Proyecto del Barrio, M.E.N.D; Tia Chucha’s;Tree People, LA Open Acres

Each of these partners share the value of revitalizing our sidewalks to increase the number of safe streets, enhance our resident’s health and improve the environment. In some form or another they all contributed resources whether they be tools, labor, expertise, promotion, labor, monetary contribution or volunteer hours to turn a blighted sidewalk into a nature parkway. Five years later they are still waiting for us to stretch the parkway into more urban trails. For this project we will have to re-ignite the conversation with all of our past partners and form new partnerships.

The three main factors which are critical to our success are leadership, communication and teamwork. The Nature Parkway’s project manager will help make it possible to extend urban trails because of her leadership ability to pay attention to detail without undermining the biggest asset which are the partners and residents. She will help us get the right team members to the decision making table. Communication will be key, since no formal group already exists to carry on the work. Continuous communication will help keep all informed in the project’s process. Lastly teamwork is necessary to understand what is going well and what needs to be ameliorated. Volunteers including experts who donate services will be engaged by the opportunity to self-identify their role and execute the right action leading towards the main goal.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Access to healthy food

Healthcare access

Exposure to air toxins

Percent of imported water

Walk/bike/transit score

Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

This project aims to enhance the residents’ well -being and revitalize the environment. By doing so there will be more active residents exercising or simply increase the amount of time they spent outside of their homes to enjoy their community. By referring to the urban trail map residents from all ages will get to know where to access healthy food options, where to begin their routine walk, run, skate or bike ride all while enjoying the shade and light breeze currently provided by the existing environment.

- Trail will better connect people to health care providers and also aid in preventative care by allowing people better access to physical activity.

- Adding green space and a alternative mobility route will cut down on driving and lower pollution levels.

- Adding permeable surfaces will replenish groundwater and lessen the need for imported water.

- Adding swales and permeable surfaces will capture and treat stormwater runoff before it pollutes local waterways

- Provide children with opportunities for physical activity and create a safe new space for them to play and access neighborhood amenities.

- This will help Pacoima, Arleta and Mission Hills address climate change by conserving water, lowering the urban heat island affect, and addressing air pollution. It will create a more sustainable and resilient community.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

It is important to understand the residents experience using the local environment as their choice for exercise, mobility and their connection to the community and nature. Quantitative and qualitative measurements will be gathered by developing pre and post-tests. We will also gather feedback on the urban trail map’s purpose and verify if it is user friendly.

A pre-test survey will ask residents, living in close proximity to the urban trail target area to inform us of the extent of current sidewalk space utilization for exercise, mobility and connection to the community and nature. After the beautification phases are completed we will survey the local community through questionnaires and observational studies to rate the utilization of the urban trails in the same four areas. By measuring the utilization of the urban trail map we plan to set up a forum to gather comments and take inventory of the number of maps taken from distribution sites. There will be an intensive marketing campaign for the urban trail map where we ask the community to help us publicize, as well as for community organizations and businesses to add a link to their websites. In addition to having the map online, we will be able to measure via Google analytics the number of times the pdf link is opened, “followed”, “re-tweeted,” or “liked” relative to the social media outlets used.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The book Democracy for Ecological Design by Randolph Hester proposes remedies such as this project. The book is intended for any community advocate who wants to change their community’s environment.

The MIT Press offers this explanation:

Hester argues that it is only by combining the powerful forces of ecology and democracy that the needed revolution in design will take place. Democracy bestows freedom; ecology creates responsible freedom by explaining our interconnectedness with all creatures. Hester's new design principles are founded on three fundamental issues that integrate democracy and ecology: enabling form, resilient form, and impelling form. Urban design must enable us to be communities rather than zoning-segregated enclaves and to function as informed democracies. A simple bench at a centrally located post office, for example, provides an opportunity for connection and shared experience. Cities must be ecologically resilient rather than ecologically imperiled, adaptable to the surrounding ecology rather than dependent on technological fixes. Resilient form turns increased urban density, for example, into an advantage. And cities should impel us by joy rather than compel us by fear; good cities enrich us rather than limit us.

The 2014 study Economic Value of Walkability by Todd Alexander Litman from Victoria Transport Policy Institute describes the importance of having non-motorized transport.

Abstract insert:

Walking and walkability provide a variety of benefits, including basic mobility, consumer cost savings, cost savings (reduced external costs), efficient land use, community livability, improved fitness and public health, economic development, and support for equity objectives.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We plan to hit the road running. The first month would be to regroup the Friends of the Nature Parkway, which includes all the representatives from the confirmed organizations who have a vested interest in there being more urban trails in the East San Fernando Valley. Together we were able to complete the first trail of the Nature Parkway in less than 6 months. Important discussions and decisions will be formed around the budget, implementation of a timeline and securing resources including volunteers. Once the strategy is developed we will be able to carry through a detailed marketing campaign that increases the community’s awareness and engages them to participate. By starting with a strategy meeting we will be able to identify and bring the right team to the table so that we each understand our role to reach our goal of increased safe urban trails to increase walkability , enhance the community’s wellness and revitalize their public spaces.

In 2010 with the initial Nature Parkway the community came together to revitalize a sidewalk, within 4 months we were able to seek sponsorships to supplement the community beautification grant we received and allocate funding towards: debris removal, signage design and manufacturing, irrigation installation, planting over 500 native plants, community informative events and one community day of planting. It was remarkable how a little over two hundreds residents turned out to the community day of planting. What we thought would take about 4 hours of sidewalk revitalization including cleanup and planting, lasted only 2 hours. It is remarkable what can happen when the community is called to action and they show up.

We hope to hit the following milestones before next fall. By the first quarter we will be able to engage the community before students break for the holidays and while residents are spending more time at home before, during, and after the holidays. While our outreach team increases awareness about the project to the community, the project lead will secure all resources for the Beautification Day. We hope to have the planting and signage installation to be complete by mid spring. Before school breaks for summer the urban map trial maps will be printed and available online. During the summer we will bring all of our volunteers and residents together to have trail map release informative events and celebrations to extend the Nature Parkway to more urban trials which can strengthen our well-being

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

For this project to be successful we will need hundreds of urban trail ambassadors. Once we have identified individuals who share our vision and can speak about the project’s goals we will be able to change any antagonistic views which NIMBYs at times cultivate. NIMBYS (not in my back yard) who often have a negative perspective on community change and revitalization efforts scheduled to occur in close proximity to their home can sometimes constrain progress. All of our community meetings will be open to the public therefore if NIMBYs aggressively stand against progress or if a collective forms to counter our goals we will have to negotiate to our best ability and bring them to our side. Often times we have learned by listening to their concerns and informing them how we can come to a solution that suffices both of our groups we can proceed as scheduled.

Another barrier which can inhibit our progress is securing permits which allow us to plant on city owned sidewalk space and schedule street closures with the support of public safety. Our proactive approach to this bureaucratic dilemma will be minimized by our strategic approach of strengthening our relationships with elected officials who oversee departments such as public safety, fire, transportation and public works. It is also advantageous that Pacoima Beautiful’ s past executive director is now our target area’s Los Angeles City Council representative. Both City Councilmember Fuentes and Martinez supported the Nature Parkway in the past and we look forward to working with them in the future.