It was interesting to read last week that the city had just been awarded a grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation from the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program to expand and improve Lucinda Garcia Park. Monrovia is one the 52 agencies to receive one of the grants for which there had been 478 applications. Monrovia’s grant is for $675,000. The funds will go towards implementing several goals, including expanding the park to the open space area located at the west end of the facility.

This is all great, especially upgrading and repairing all the existing facilities, but I will miss the open space at the west end of the park. When I was a child I walked along Olive Avenue every morning on my way to Monroe School and back every afternoon. There were many days when I would detour through what we called the “rideaway.” We kids did not realize that when our elders talked about the area they were discussing the old “right of way” of the electric red cars that used to roll throughout the county for decades.

We thought of the area as our personal wilderness — a little bit of raw nature literally in our backyard. In spring, we would pick wildflowers and in fall, searched for colorful leaves that had blown into our wilderness from nearby trees. Sure, we would get foxtails in our socks and other weeds would be tracked into our homes along with mud and other junk from that untamed part of the neighborhood but we loved it.

That untamed area became everything to us: the old west, a mountain trail, a wild jungle. We imagined it was everywhere we dreamed that was wild. We had paths beaten in the tall weeds that would crop up every spring. It was all ours. No one planned our play area for us. We created it ourselves and it was great.

Yes, the upgraded park will be appreciated by the current crop of kids in the neighborhood, but they will never know the wild places the area took the children of the ‘50s and ‘60s, at least in our imaginations.

Olive Avenue Park, now renamed Lucinda Garcia Park, offers picnic tables, barbecues, drinking fountains, a walking trail loop around the park, and playground equipment. It is located at 502 W. Olive Ave. just west of Monroe Elementary School.

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