Begonia Triangle – “a pocket park with California native plants, that would be waterwise & easy to maintain”

If you’ve ever wondered what that native garden is at Newton and 242nd streets in Walteria/Torrance here’s the creation story.  Two local articles from 2006 and 2008 describe the creation of Begonia Park, a surprising California native pocket park located on the Hollywood Riviera at Newton and 242nd.

A PLOT OF LAND TURNS INTO A SMALL TREASURE AT NEWTON & 242nd

What do you get when you combine the City of Torrance’s Mike Wilson, native plant landscaper Tony Baker, & the community?

A community park! This eager combination has provided a small treasure planted with pleasant California native
plants. It’s a little pocket of a park tucked away on the triangle of land at the corner of Newton & 242nd. The City of
Torrance provided the arrow-shaped piece of land, followed by the installation of a solar drip irrigation system, a meandering
path, a park bench & trash receptacle. Tony Baker of Natural Landscapes tenderly planted his pallet [sic] of beautiful &
fragrant native plants that will attract birds & butterflies. The community contributed encouragement, positive comments,
& offers of help. Come next spring, after our winter rains, lush greenery will abound, color will emerge, & the
park will be filled with the twitter of birds, the hum of insects, & the uttered sounds of delight from the people who visit.
Article contributed by Riviera resident, Carol Roelen (Riviera Reporter – Newsletter of the Riviera Homeowners Association – February 2006)

Riviera Landscape Award

Mary Lenihan and I have been the Riviera Homeowners Association Landscape Award Co-Chairs for 17 years and we have had a lot of fun giving out our “Outstanding Landscape Award” to about 141 Riviera residents since 1991. We presented our last award in June at a City Council meeting to 8 key people who helped a little parcel of land become a lovely neighborhood pocket park that came to be known as the “The Begonia Triangle.” This is that sweet story.

Once upon a time, there was a family named Bauman, who owned a nursery called the Palos Verdes Begonia Farm. The Begonia Farm was originally located on PCH, but in 1961, the Bauman Family moved to land at the intersection of 242nd
St. & Newton Street in the Walteria section of Torrance, now part of the Riviera. Part of the property the Baumans purchased included a small triangle shaped lot in the middle of that intersection and as the story goes, the City was eventually going to straighten out Newton St. & turn this lot into a part of Newton St. & then give a corresponding piece of Newton to the Begonia Farm as a contiguous part of their property. This exchange never happened & the triangle lot was too small to do anything with. Old folklore has said that cars & motorcycles would drive right over & through the lot and someone actually made a ski jump with a ramp so that cars and motorcycles could actually come down Newton, hit the ramp & take air before landing…do a wheely sort of thing. Anyway, that little parcel of land had a separate deed attached to it & when the Bauman family closed their nursery in 1997, they talked with their attorney,

Bill Beverly, who handled the sale, about donating that little parcel of land to the City. He convinced the City to take the land as a gift. This did not happen overnight, but was finally formally accepted by the City Council in Dec. 1999. Bill was then President of Torrance Rotary Club & Rotary was looking for civic projects & they were going to participate in developing it into a park. Sounded like a great idea & for a year or so some folks would come out & weed, but in the meantime Bill left Rotary & so the lot just continued to sit there…..

Then, in August, 2002, nearby resident, Carol Roelen, took it upon herself to write a letter to Gene Barnett, who was then Director of Parks & Recreation, & she proposed a pocket park there with drought tolerant California native plants, that would
be waterwise & easy to maintain. Carol’s ideas included a meandering, decomposed granite pathway & a bench for a peaceful sitting area. She also proposed in her letter that Tony Baker, a local native plant designer and landscaper, who created the excellent Madrona Marsh native plant garden, be hired to create “a pleasing park setting for which the neighbors and the City of Torrance could be proud.”

In 2005, the green light was given to Tony who designed the ultimate plan & installation & under City contract
maintained it for the first year. But that is jumping ahead & it is still 2002.

Carol’s letter to Gene Barnett had come to just the right person, as Gene brought this idea to the attention of the City powers as a project worthy of their consideration & support. “Gene was a master at providing opportunities to accomplish these kinds of things…his great strengths were to encourage City & community interests to work together to turn visions into reality & make things happen.” & indeed he did! Even though to quote Gene, “the wheels of government move at glacial speed.”

Now it is about 2004 & after all the necessary governmental approvals were in place, Gene threw the ball to Mike Wilson, who was and is Park Services Manager. Mike caught the ball & ran with it, helping to pull it together, meeting with & helping to coordinate all the different governmental & community pieces of the project that were necessary to come together to accomplish the goal & make the dream come true. Important pieces of this project were also handled by 2 very fine Park Services Supervisors, Geno Centofanti and Danny Hylands.. They oversaw putting in a solar drip irrigation system, the meandering pathway, a low curb along 242nd St. & steps from 242nd St to the park. After the planting was completed, the City returned & provided a bench & trash receptacle.

And the Begonia Triangle pocket park was finally completed in 2006. The 8 award recipients are underlined in the story and each brought something important to the table and with our City and community working cooperatively, together took an empty lot that was an eyesore, & turned it into a little treasure. Please make some time in your busy day to stop by & see it up close, Ruth Vogel (Riviera Reporter – Newsletter of the Riviera Homeowners Association – September 2008)

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