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Los Angeles City Parks

Castaic Lake Recreation Area - Los Angeles County Parks - BEST Places to Picnic

City of Los Angeles
Department of Recreation and Parks
1200 West 7th Street Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Telephone: 1-888-LAparks

Enjoy Los Angeles City Parks!

Mission

Their mission is to enrich the lives of the citizens of Los Angeles by providing safe, welcoming parks and recreation facilities and affordable, diverse recreation and human services activities for people of all ages to play, learn, contemplate, build community and be good stewards of our environment.

Vision

Their vision is to provide affordable recreational, physical and cultural opportunities for all of Los Angeles residents, with a focus on families, youth development and building healthy communities. The programs and services offered by the Department will provide excellent value and quality and emphasize the equitable distribution of resources throughout the City. We will offer these programs in safe, attractive and well-maintained facilities that will reflect the publics needs and interests.

Motto

They build healthy communities through people, parks and programs.

City Parks History

The history of the Department of Recreation and Parks is rich and diverse-stemming from the early days of Los Angeles. Colonel Felipe de Neve, Governor of the Spanish province of Alta California, officially founded Los Angeles on September 4, 1781 and created the Plaza in the center of the city. 

The settlers, of Spanish, Indian, and African ancestry, gave their little pueblo a big name "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles," which means "The Town of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels." The Plaza became the first small unit in the original park system of Los Angeles, currently its own Department known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

The City was incorporated on April 4, 1850. The City Council created the Department of Parks in 1889. At that time the city owned several pieces of land that were believed suitable for park purposes. 

They turned over these properties to the newly-organized Department of Parks. In a generous mood during Christmas of 1896, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith offered to donate five square miles of the Los Feliz Rancho to the City as a park. He said, "it must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people..." 

What followed was the development of several more parks including the original pueblo lands of the old plaza, Elysian Park, Pershing Square, and later Lincoln Park, MacArthur Park, Echo Lake Park, and Hollenbeck Park.

In 1904 the City created the first municipal Playground Department in the United States. What followed was the establishment of several playgrounds between 1905-1911, with the first being Violet Street (near City Hall) in 1905.

Early in the establishment of the Department, the Camping Section's system was incorporated. Children's camps and family camp as a municipal recreation service began in 1913. Although no longer open, the first camp was established in Redondo Beach. 

In 1914 Camp Seely in the San Bernardino Mountains in Crestline was the first family camp built, and in 1919 Camp Radford opened in Big Bear in the San Bernardino National Forest. Camp High Sierra in the 

Mammoth region opened to families in 1924 and has proved popular to this day with generations of the same family members attending the camp. Then came the local camps; Griffith Park Boys Camp opened in 1925 and a year later Hollywoodland Girls Camp opened. 

The last two camps to be added were Decker Canyon Camp in Malibu and Camp Valcrest in Angeles National Forest. The Department's camping program was so innovative that Oakland, Berkeley, Sacramento, Stockton, Long Beach, and San Diego followed suit.

1925 was a milestone year for public recreation in the City. The Charter created a Department of Playground and Recreation and granted both the Department of Parks and the Department of Playground and Recreation control of their own funds. In addition, this year brought the acquisition of Venice Beach and later Cabrillo Beach.

With the addition of the Greek Theater in 1930, the Cabrillo Marine Museum in 1934, the Los Angeles Zoo (recently evolved into its own Department) and the Griffith Observatory in 1935, the 1930's brought further growth and development.

Prepared for emergencies, between 1941-1945 parks and playgrounds and the public schools were designated places of refuge in an emergency. In 1947, after the war ended, voters approved a bond issue for parks and playgrounds for $12.5 million. In 1947, a charter amendment was proposed to consolidate the Department of Parks and the Department of Playground and Recreation. Voters approved the merger by a majority and the Department of Recreation and Parks was born in a time of expanding development of both departments.

Today, the City's Department of Recreation and Parks manages all municipally owned and operated recreation and parks facilities within the City and has been the human face of the City of Los Angeles. Rooted in the goals of our predecessors, we continue to bring people together to celebrate, to compete, to learn new skills, and to relax with family and friends.

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