On Saturday, January 7, the Los Angeles Parks Foundation dedicated the new Tom LaBonge Memorial Park Forest, a native plant landscape area atop Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, in honor of the former City Councilmember, who passed away exactly two years earlier, on January 7, 2021.
The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the project – an installation of 200 native plants and 17 unique species – was attended by a large gathering of LaBonge’s extended family, friends, and co-workers, most of whom hiked the seasonally verdant 1.25-mile trail to the summit location where LaBonge himself hiked almost every day.
Speaking at the ceremony, LAPF Executive Director Carolyn Ramsay noted that the first native plantings at the site were done by LaBonge himself, who thought the location – which captures some of the best panoramic views of the city and was one of his favorite spots Griffith Park – could use more trees. So he carried eight native oaks up the mountain from his car and planted them himself.
“The idea of this project is to finish something Tom started,” Ramsay said, and to “create more of a sense of place in his honor.”
Ramsay said all the plants installed were grown from seeds in the nursery at the LAPF office and, in addition to beautifying the site, the installation will also serve as a demonstration garden for people to learn about native plants and their benefits.
Also speaking at the dedication, former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the project represents the best of both LaBonge and Los Angeles. “Tom LaBonge taught us all there is nothing with Los Angeles we can’t fix if we all just do a little bit every single day,” Garcetti said. “Thank you all for loving and living in this city the way Tom wanted us to…and just every day reminding ourselves that the best of Los Angeles is always still ahead of us, and the best of Los Angeles is inside ourselves.”
But perhaps the most touching moment of the ceremony, perfectly capturing the emotion of the day, was provided by LaBonge’s daughter, Mary Kate, who remembered her father with a recitation of the poem “Immortality” by Claire Harner. It ends with the stanza:
Do not stand
By my grave, and cry–
I am not there,
I did not die.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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