Extended In-Depth Coverage
Ed "Pops" Davenport Park Opens in NLB...And Is Slated To Double In Size
Background / Perspective
(August 27, 2006) -- The grand opening of LB's newest park -- Ed "Pops" Davenport Park -- on 55th Way about a block east of Paramount Blvd took place on August 26.
This is the view from the eastern end of the new park looking west. It's large...and will soon be roughly double this size. The industrial parcel to the west (in the distance) is in escrow. That will extend the park all the way to Paramount Blvd.
The park has a childrens' play area.
There's also a pavillion style area.
This view shows the industrial parcel to the west...which will eventually become park land too.
A sizable crowd turned out for the Saturday event, including the late LBPD veteran's familymembers, LB police officers (rank and file, brass & SWAT), City Hall and Redevelopment officials...and NLB community members.
At the ceremony, 9th district Councilman Val Lerch announced that the 5.5 acre park is slated to double in size to eleven and a half acres, with the acquisition of an industrial parcel that will expand the park all the way to Paramount Blvd.
"It's going to be eleven and a half acres of park land [applause]. That's incredible for a built-out city," Councilman Lerch said.
Banners lined area streets announcing the event.
A steady stream of community members turned out for the midday celebration.
The park is named for Ed "Pops" Davenport...who joined LBPD in 1962 and served in multiple police capacities including Rangemaster/Firearms Instructor at the Combat Training Range and expert roles with LBPD's SWAT Team. He was killed while on duty.
"Pops" Davenport grew up in NLB...and 9th district Councilman Val Lerch proposed naming the park in his honor, an action approved by the City Council. Ed Davenport's three children were present: Christi Lynn, Robert and Darren. Darren is a Tactical Sergeant on LBPD's SWAT Team. Robert, a former LB police officer, currently works for the Murrieta PD.
Mayor Bob Foster and 9th district Councilman Val Lerch joined in giving the familymembers special presentations.
For the Davenport family, son/LBPD Sgt. Darren Davenport said, "This is truly amazing. This is quite an honor just to be here...To have a park named after him is truly an honor, but to have it located in North Long Beach [where he grew up] is especially fitting...Again, the family is really honored."
Mayor Foster and Councilman Lerch both acknowledged former 9th district Councilman Jerry Shultz for initiating the project...and Mayor Foster congratulated Parks, Rec & Marine Dept. "for seeing this project through to the end" and thanked Councilman Lerch "for really hanging in there, sticking with this and making this a reality [strong applause]." Mayor Foster continued:
Mayor Foster: I know that the North Long Beach community is proud to have this, it's a joyous day for all of you, but actually all of Long Beach celebrates this event. I'm proud that this park is also named after one of our finest police officers. I didn't know Pops Davenport; I wish I had, because everything I've read and heard about him, he just seems like a fine human being, a great law enforcement officer...
...I want to thank the Davenport family and congratulate them on this event, just a terrific tribute to your father. [applause]
...I've talked a lot during the campaign for the office of Mayor about areas of the city that did not get enough attention, and that was certainly North Long Beach and West Long Beach, and I hope this is the first of many things, many projects to come that will benefit, enhance and enrich this area. I know I'll work with Councilmember Lerch to make that a reality. You have my commitment to do that...
Councilman Lerch told the crowd, "It's days like today that make walking the streets and knocking on the doors the reason why we do it as Council people. It's days like today where these kids are going to be playing in the park for generations to come."
Councilman Lerch noted that the park's initial 5.5 acres will soon basically double in size and stretch all the way to Paramount Blvd. "We're in escrow [on an industrial parcel now fronting Paramount Blvd. that will link up with the park]...It's going to be eleven and a half acres of park land [applause]. That's incredible for a built-out city. That's two acres per thousand in my district and that's what we're looking for and we want to do in our entire city....I'm honored to be a part of that. I'm honored to have been able to continue and steer the course as we went forward to build this park..."
LB Police Chief Tony Batts said, "This park represents a legacy. It really touches me that this city takes the time to recognize a man like Ed Davenport." He continued:
Police Chief Batts: What Ed represented for me was tradition -- tradition and a love for an organization. Ed was part of a cornerstone of an organization that is extremely proud and has some of the finest police officers, it is the finest organization, I think in the nation [applause]...
["Pops" Davenport's] love for this organization was the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.
And you see those guys standing to my left stand proud, who look good, who stand with honor, who carry a tremendous amount of pride, that was his pride and joy was the Long Beach Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team. [applause]
Ed represented legacy. Ed represented 42 years dedicated to the city of Long Beach, and I am so very proud that this city has taken the time to dedicate a park in his honor. That is something that will last forever in this city.
Daryl Black, Councilmember Richardson put together a similar [park] under his name. What way for the city to say that I care about you, that I value you. This organization makes me proud, and I thank you for honoring the Long Beach Police Department and honoring Ed "Pops" Davenport.
In addition to Chief Batts, attending were Deputy Police Chiefs Robert Luna, Tim Jackman and J.J. Craig, Division Commander Scott Robertson, Field Support Commander Roy Walker and Administration Bureau chief Braden Phillips.
"It's great, and it's going to get even better," commented 6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson.
4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell greeted RDA Board president Thomas Fields at the park entrance.
Councilman O'Donnell was visibly impressed on entering the site.
LBFD Fire Chief Dave Ellis greets Parks, Rec. & Marine's Planning and Development Bureau Manager, Dennis Eschen. We asked Mr. Eschen if he'd shepherded the project to completion and he said, "No, not really; this was done mainly by RDA [Redevelopment Agency]."
From the podium, RDA board chair Thomas Fields said he played a small part in the park project and credited Councilman Lerch for spearheading it. "To everyone who played a part in this, thank you so much," board chair Fields. Other Redevelopment Agency boardmembers attending were Terry Jensen, Neil McCrabb and Bill Baker.
Pat West, City Hall's Community Development Director & RDA's Exec. Dir., surveys the new park alongside Phil Hester, Manager of LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Marine,
North Division Sgt. Tim Lancaster summed things up after the event. "It really was a great day. The community was there and I know the officers appreciated that."
The new park had its origins in controversies not apparent at the ceremony.
The 5.5 acre park was offered by city management -- double the legally required mitigation -- to try and assuage anger by park activists over a management proposal (approved only after multiple acrimonious Council meetigs) to rezone and pave over roughly 2 acres of Scherer Park (NE area at Atlantic at Del Amo) to accommodate LBPD's permanent North Division police facility.
Erasing part of Scherer Park prompted a lawsuit and federal and state administrative challenges...which ultimately couldn't prevent the Scherer Park taking.
However there was a change in City Hall's attitude. The City Council subsequently voted to dedicate remaining LB park land "in perpetuity"...a hurdle to future attempts to use park land for non-park purposes.
Park activists still grieve over losing part of Scherer Park. Roughly two acres of park land, including old growth trees, were chopped off and rezoned for institutional use (replacing a temporary LBPD North facility with a permanent building). Here's how Scherer Park's NE area looked in March 2002.
Shortly after dawn on January 13, 2003, workers wielding chainsaws and bulldozers arrived. LBReport.com described the scene:
"After chain saws ripped off tree branches, a bulldozer scooped up the remains as so much garbage.
"The action marks the end to a marathon effort by park protection advocates, led by Friends of Scherer Park founders Gigi & Reggie Bannister who founded a separate group, Stop Taking Our Parks, who tried to prevent City Hall from taking further park land for non-park "institutional" purposes.
"The Bannisters and park protection advocates ran into walls of opposition. The Scherer Park police facility expansion was backed by a number of influential 8th and 9th district community members, 8-1 Council votes (Grabinski dissenting), political diversions (Council refusal to put a Charter Amendment protecting parkland on the ballot...)...LB school district interference (removing the former Dooleys Hardware site as a potential alternative) and Superior Court and Court of Appeals rulings letting the City Council (absent other city law) do what it did.
"The final blow came just weeks ago with a National Park Service decision (previously reported by LBReport.com) concluding that removing roughly two acres of Scherer Park land (to be "replaced" by new parkland on 55th Way) would not create any long-term significant adverse impacts."
And that wasn't the end of it.
City management originally indicated the North police facility would be built in Scherer Park using general capital project funds or bond funds...but management eventually sought to tap North Long Beach Redevelopment Project Area "blight fighting" funds for construction money. This was another hot potato...and management publicly requested approval from the (advisory) North Project Area Committee...which backed the move. So did 9th district Councilman Lerch and ultimately the Redevelopment Agency's governing board...although each step in the process created its own brouhaha.
[For the record, during this period LBReport.com editorially criticized tapping RDA funds for the city capital project, calling it "W.C. Fields" financing ("never give a sucker an even break"). We also sandpapered City Hall's rezoning and paving over part of Scherer Park land.]
Some doubted the 55th Way Park would ever materialize. The new park's opening was supposed to come before the North police facility received its certificate of occupancy...which didn't happen; the police facility opened first.
But the new park is open now...a 5.5 acre oasis in a densely populated area bordering on industrial uses in a part of town historically shortchanged in open space. And the new park will soon more than double in size to 11.5 acres.
After providing us with a quick comment at the park opening celebration, veteran NLB activist and North PAC Vice-Chair Laurie Angel sent us this email:
Ms. Angel: No one, truly, was happy about taking up acreage in Scherer Park. However, if not for that event we would not have Pops Davenport Park in an area that is starved for park land. Because of the situation with Scherer it actually more equitable distributed park land in this area.
Scherer has not lost its popularity. Because of the pond and water feature it is one of the premier venues for photographing events, most specifically Quincineras (the celebration of the a young woman's coming of age 15 years in the Hispanic community) in the greater Long Beach area. Families come here from miles and miles around. You may find it incredible the line up of limos in the parking lot to take photo graph after photograph most of the day on Saturdays and Sundays and the bird life flourishes.
Now North Long Beach is doubly blessed with greenery and respite providing for a greater population.
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