Plans for Buffer Park on Exposition Boulevard near Stewart Street. (Image courtesy city of Santa Monica)

EXPOSITION BLVD — Plans for Buffer Park are looking like more than just a noise barrier for neighbors.

Plans for Buffer Park on Exposition Boulevard near Stewart Street. (Image courtesy city of Santa Monica)

Meant to shelter residents from the racket of the adjacent Exposition Light Rail maintenance yard, which began construction this summer and will be done next fall, the park includes bird towers, exercise stations, and an art wall.

“The plans are playing with the continuity of this long linear park while conceptualizing it as a series of long linked rooms,” said Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services for City Hall. “It’s a long stretch of gardens.”

One of the challenges for planners, she said, was designing within the uniquely narrow space, which is 13,320 feet long and by 110 feet at its widest and 60 feet at its narrowest. Planners studied narrow parks in Paris, Madrid, Toronto, and San Francisco for inspiration.

The park runs along Exposition Boulevard from Stewart Street to Dorchester Avenue.

“The beauty of it is that it’s really been a collaboration with the neighbors,” she said. “They’ve played a key role in articulating in what they want to see.”

What neighbors want more than anything is a buffer from the maintenance yard, which is necessary for the incoming Expo Light Rail. This is the purpose of the Forest Room, a grove of ficus and native oak trees that will surround visitors and block the sounds of nearby Stewart Street.

The Meadow was the most popular proposed section of the park, according to a survey performed by planning officials. It includes flowering trees that shade a sunken open grassy space for kids to play. Broad steps abut the meadow, allowing for potential stage performances or movie screenings. A low vine-covered wall will run along Exposition Boulevard.

The plans have an emphasis on education with the Learning Garden as the prime example. It will include a garden lab meant to demonstrate planting techniques.

A new “master farmer” will be appointed to lead the demonstrations a couple times each years.

“As part of this concept the master farmer would provide a limited number of gardening or raw cooking classes that help the community implement the concepts of the learning garden into their own backyards,” city officials said.

Fruit from an orchard, also in the Learning Garden, will be donated to food banks.

Another section conducive to education, the Bird Garden, will be filled with trees that support bird habitats.

“Mounded planting islands will support butterflies and birds of all kinds with food and nesting opportunities,” city officials said. “A series of bird towers, simple trellis structures planted with vines, will provide a third opportunity for bird habitat in this garden.”

As catchy as the name Buffer Park is, it won’t stick. The community will select a formal name next year.

There’s been no word as to how much the 2.35-acre park will cost to create. The cost will be incorporated in the 2014-15 budget.

Construction could begin as early as the spring of 2015.

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