One of my staff sent me a link to this story on Treehugger about this innovative solution to the problem of not enough parks. In Istanbul, the Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden is a botanical garden inside the cloverleaf of a freeway exchange. This mostly privately funded 125-acre garden has over 1,800 plant species under cultivation, an herbarium with over 1,000 species, a children’s garden with programs for youth, and it features geophytes (plants that grow from bulbs), Quercus species (oaks), Turkish endemics, Turkish rare and threatened species, economic, medicinal and aromatic plants, and insectivorous plants.
Can we adapt this idea for greater Los Angeles? Sure there are lots of questions and issues to be explored – especially safe access for people, air quality inside the exchange, and potential impacts of plant roots and water infiltration – but even if we developed the spaces inside interchanges just for nature, we would all benefit from the air and sound filtering effects of all that vegetation.
A quick visit to the internet will show you how many of these spaces we have tucked into the Los Angeles transportation skeleton. Already some are used for construction project staging, and some have developed purposes (self-storage facilities, CHP stations, etc), indicating that at least in some places the issue of people access has been considered and approved. It seems that some which have pedestrian access (by design or accident) might be a great place to tuck away a pocket park. And the ones that have no easy access might prove very useful for habitat restoration projects. Here’s one exchange in El Monte that I pass by frequently. What better could we do with this land?