Many of you, especially the outdoor enthusiasts, have enjoyed a hike in Studio City’s very own and very beautiful Wilacre Park, located in the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. For years, it has been a destination for hikers and nature lovers to enjoy expansive views of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. However, the wildly popular Betty B. Dearing trail’s easy accessibility and leisurely trek left local residents with parked cars crowding neighborhood streets, leading to a significant impact on their quality of life. But now thanks to hard work and community and government collaboration, the congestion is coming to an end.
In 1997, after meetings between local residents and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy , residents raised money to buy a ranger station and secured funding from the City and County of Los Angeles to build a parking lot near the park. The purpose of the lot was to make it simple for Wilacre Park hikers to use and to deter them from parking on neighborhood streets. But shortly after the lot opened, the public entity that manages the lot—the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority—imposed a $3.00 fee. To make things worse, the only way to pay was in cash.
Paying for parking wasn’t a hit with hikers. In fact, it deterred park visitors from using the parking lot, leaving it empty while the narrow streets around it were clogged. Too often, hikers used residents’ private property as an extension of the park. Hikers littered, damaged residential landscaping.
It was a vexing issue that plagued the neighborhood for too long. Because the park is in my district and it frustrated my constituents, I rolled up my sleeves in search of a solution. I worked long and hard with various city departments and the community to alleviate the problem, but the nuisance persisted.
Then, I raised the issue with our esteemed former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. I told Zev that the parking lot should be made free of charge. He agreed with me and before the end of his final term, he provided additional funding to manage the park. He also made the receipt of that funding contingent on having free parking in the Wilacre Park lot.
I’m very happy to report that the parking lot is now free. This is a victory for our community and a big help for hikers looking for parking.
So, the next time you go hiking at Wilacre Park, leave your car in the newly free parking lot next to the ranger station.