Press Telegram: Wrigley Greenbelt project gets final $1.2 million funding, anticipated to open early 2023
By KRISTY HUTCHINGS
Long Beach’s long-awaited — and long-drawn out — Wrigley Greenbelt revitalization project is finally nearing completion with help from a $1.2 million state grant awarded to the city recently.
The Wrigley Greenbelt Master Plan — meant to rehabilitate an 8-acre plot of land that stretches along DeForest Avenue to east of the 710 Freeway and the Los Angeles River — dates back to 1993. The first iterations of project development took place in 2007 with Long Beach’s RiverLink plan to address open green space inequities throughout the city.
The project — which has been through several iterations — lays out various Greenbelt upgrades meant to cultivate the native habitat, provide residents with access to high quality green space, and offset pollution from the adjacent 710 corridor, including:
- Installing a six-foot wide decomposed granite walking trail throughout the greenbelt.
- Planting new native landscaping, replacing trees at a three-to-one ratio, and adding a new irrigation system.
- Creating dry stream beds to control stormwater runoff.
- Installing new benches, picnic table rest areas and water fountains.
The finished project will also include equestrian rest areas for riders on the nearby horse trail, though riding will not be permitted on the Greenbelt itself. Los Angeles County also recently finished major upgrades to a pre-existing equestrian center located within the Wrigley Greenbelt between 31st and Spring streets.
Long Beach won two Los Angeles County grants totaling a little more than $1.6 million to fund the project in 2008 — and in the following year, launched several community outreach initiatives that went on for nearly a decade. That funding, though, proved insufficient to realize the city’s full vision for the Wrigley Greenbelt once the project design was finished.
“Typically, when the funds are first awarded, the project really is only in concept design phase,” said Larry Smith, a project manager with the Conservation Corps of Long Beach, said in an interview this week. “It has to go through a whole design and development phase, (and) as time goes by, costs go up.”
Years later, in 2019, the Conservation Corps partnered with the city to help secure additional funding for a pared-down version of the project, and construction began early last year.
“Once we started construction, we only had X amount of dollars to start with,” Miller said, “but we needed to keep adding money to it from different sources until we got enough to fund the full project.”
Those funding insecurities, though, were only part of the problem.
Construction stopped nearly as soon as it began in 2021 because a county inspector alerted Long Beach officials that three of their construction permits had expired.
“Because the project was on the runway so long, they’d (the city) gotten permits, but they hadn’t realized they expired,” Smith said. “So the project was essentially dormant from April of 2021 until beginning of December of 2021.”
All permits were properly renewed as of of September 2021 — and construction on the project resumed in November that year
The project, which will cost an estimated $3.75 million in total, is now fully funded — thanks to the county grants, funding secured by the Conservation Corps, a California Rivers and Mountains Conservancy grant, and most recently, a $1.2 million allocation from the state’s 2023 fiscal year budget.
“That will allow us to finish everything that needs to go in,” Smith said of the state funding.
Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, presented the $1.2 million check to city officials on Saturday, Oct. 22.
“My district suffers from some of the worst air quality in the entire country, and it is a top priority for me to provide and enhance greenspace to combat air pollution and the increased health risks our families are exposed to,” Gonzalez said in a Saturday news release. “The Wrigley Greenbelt will have so many benefits for surrounding neighborhoods.”
Construction on the Greenbelt is now expected to finish in late January, Miller said, with a potential public opening sometime in February.