An aerial view of Ricardo Lara Linear Park along I-105 shows the many program areas. The design incorporates a 45-foot-wide (14 m) space for park and recreation amenities while collecting stormwater. (SWA)

Ricardo Lara Linear Park
Lynwood, California

Project owner: City of Lynwood, California
Designer: SWA Group
Size: 5 acres (2 ha), 1 mile long (1.6 km)

The Ricardo Lara Linear Park demonstrates how underused land can be repurposed to benefit an entire community. Teamwork and creativity transformed a vacant five-acre (2 ha) stretch of land along Interstate 105 in Lynwood into a park that advances social equity, improves environmental health, and offers recreation spaces for all ages.

The park links neighborhoods that were divided by the construction of I-105. Built in the early 1990s, the freeway created visual and physical barriers separating communities. The social and environmental controversy surrounding the freeway’s construction is past, but its legacy remains through lost networks and remnants of unused space. Though only one mile (1.6 km) long, the new park illustrates significant progress for cities rethinking how to optimize infrastructure to address community needs.

The park is located in a densely populated, historically park-poor neighborhood. Opened in October 2015, the park features five activity zones that offer different amenities, including a community garden, a shade pavilion, a dog park, a children’s play area, and an adult fitness area, plus bioswales and basins that treat runoff and act as flood prevention. Community engagement in the project can be seen in the public art throughout the park and the mosaic tiles laid into the picnic tables and benches. Though the park is only 45 feet wide (13.7 m), it offers something for everyone.

The Ricardo Lara Linear Park was realized in part through a $5 million grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s Proposition 84 fund. From the start of design through the end of construction, the project took 18 months to complete. This small city park has transformed a vacant lot into a community treasure and showcases how to optimize infrastructure to address community needs.