For eight years, Norwood Elementary, in the El Monte City School District, has been closed due to declining enrollment. The approximately 6-acre school property contains two softball fields, a snack bar, basketball courts, grassy areas, picnic tables, shade structures, a cafeteria, and multiple classrooms. The entire property is fenced, prohibiting public use of the site.
Currently the site is used for School District storage, however, before the COVID-19 pandemic it was also used for seasonal sports such as softball. The El Monte Fillies softball team is based out of the site, subject to a joint-use agreement with the City of El Monte regarding the property’s athletic facilities.
The Norwood Elementary property is underused. Given the property’s size, and the fact that there are currently no other parks in the neighborhood, there is tremendous potential to redevelop the property as multiple-benefit public park space.
This proposal is informed by both past and recent community engagement efforts conducted as part of the Link Initiative, a partnership that includes The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Active San Gabriel Valley (ActiveSGV), First 5 LA, Resources Legacy Fund, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, and the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability, with the goal of creating parks and active transportation opportunities throughout the City of El Monte. The property was specifically identified in multiple existing plans as having the potential to provide valuable neighborhood park space. The project’s concept design has been developed with the local community.
The renovation of the Norwood Elementary School property will create a cool, green oasis in what is otherwise a largely concrete and impermeable neighborhood. Asphalt will be removed throughout the site and replaced with native and/or drought tolerant plantings, and more trees will be planted – there are currently only six trees, most of them of small stature, and seven palm trees, which provide limited to no shade, on the site; the additional trees will significantly enhance the tree canopy of the site. Walking paths will be added where there are none currently, and nature-based play equipment as well as some strategic and popular traditional play equipment will provide safe and engaging places for children to recreate. An edible learning garden will provide space for education and local food production.
The project will use natural systems, and systems that mimic natural systems, to cool the new park and surrounding neighborhood, store carbon through significant tree planting, and will filter and infiltrate storm water with new bioswales, stormwater capture amenities such as rain gardens and gravel infiltration beds, and native and drought tolerant planting.