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Solar Powered Lights Bring Crowds to North Hollywood Park

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Joggers and walkers use the path lit by new solar powered poles | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

Joggers and walkers use the path lit by new solar powered poles | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist
With a big smile on her face, North Hollywood resident Marta Duron has spent the last two evenings at North Hollywood Park. It's a first for her to be there after dark, but with newly installed solar lighting poles along the jogging path, she plans on taking advantage more often. "It makes it safer and more people are out at nighttime, even late at night" she said. "It's a major difference."

The 28 new lights are a first for the city's Recreation and Parks Department, which plans to install more systems at other parks. "It's good stewardship," explained Jon Kirk Mukri, the department's general manager. "We want to save the taxpayers money long-term," he said, noting that $19 million is spent each year lighting park facilities. The savings from North Hollywood Park's lights, which were funded by Quimby fees paid by developers, are expected to pay for one full-time employee's annual salary.

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Additionally, because city employees installed the lights instead of contractors, the quoted $500,000 went down to $263,000. “The city demonstrated real fiscal prudency by waiting until the solar power industry came up with lights that were both energy-efficient and affordable," said actor and environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. last night at a ceremonial switching on of the lights.

Parks advocate and City Councilmember Tom LaBonge was also excited to see the lights installed. “These new lights will allow people to exercise here safely late into the evening without adding energy costs that, frankly, the city can’t afford right now,” he said.

North Hollywood park was chosen in part because of LaBonge's support of the idea, but also because of the high usage it gets. "This is a well used park. We wanted to put it in a park that gets maximum use in an area that we can get maximum exposure," explained Mukri. Three more parks are slated for solar powered lights, including Echo Park and Westchester Park.

One lap around the triangular jogging path is just under one mile (by our measurements, it's about .92, see a map here). While street lights on Magnolia and Vineland lit the path on those sides, a stretch along the 170 freeway remained extremely dark. Now the lights dot the path, including a cross path and an area with workout stations. Of the 28 lights, only one was observed not working last night.

A group of four twenty-something women were happy with the improvement, but wished a 300-foot section under a patch of trees was also lit. Duron agreed that it was a safety concern for her along that portion of the path. "Other than that, I think it's a safe park," she said.