A Park a Day: Point Fermin Park, San Pedro

July is National Parks & Recreation Month, and all month long LAist will be featuring a hand-selected park a day to showcase just a few of the wonderful recreation spaces—big or small—in the Los Angeles area.

Point Fermin Park marks the southern-most point of the City of Los Angeles. Located at the end of Gaffey Street, the 37-acre park features an amphitheater, picnic and barbeque areas, a children’s playground and stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. It’s perfect for bringing your greasy sandwich from Busy Bees or Croatian pizza from Pavich’s.

Point Fermin was named after Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen by British explorer George Vancouver. When Vancouver visited in 1793 he wanted to thank the Father for his hospitality at the mission in Carmel.

The centerpiece of the park is the Point Fermin Lighthouse. Built in 1874 using California Redwoods, it was fully operational until World War II broke out in 1941. It remained dark after the war with radar technology taking over the need for lighthouses and fell into disrepair until 1974 when it was renovated. It is currently open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. with a donation requested from visitors.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the park is the fact that part of it is in the ocean. Due to what geologists call “slumping”, a sizable portion of the 600 block of Paseo Del Mar began to slip into the ocean in 1929. The movement was measured as fast as 11 inches per day during the 1930’s. All but two houses were relocated and there were no deaths. The movement ceased in the 1940’s but the resulting land is unstable and fenced off.

In the past accessing the trails down to the ruins at the base of cliff was overlooked. It was a notorious party spot for teenagers. Even I had fun down there growing up in the 1990’s, but in my two attempts to hike down recently I was stopped by police. Good pictures can be found at LA Taco, at California Blog and at hexodus'... Flickr.

With the park being a cliffside, there has been a dark history at Point Fermin. Back in 1996-97, my senior year of high school, there was a spate of teenage suicides here in San Pedro. It was so startling that it even garnered coverage in Time. In Elizabeth Gleick’s first paragraph of “Suicide’s Shadow” in the July 22, 1996 issue, she writes about the contrast of the beauty of Point Fermin to the gritty industrial bleakness of the rest of San Pedro:

But at Point Fermin there is a pretty little park where one can hop the crumbling concrete fence, stand at the edge of the cliffs, shut out the life-affirming sounds of dog walkers and picnickers and gaze out upon the Pacific without seeing any of that industrial ugliness. There is a clear view of nothingness from here, and that view is stunning.

So the part of the park fell off the face of the earth. So the park is privy to some dark moments. But the beauty of it transcends any of that darkness.