“Some things never change,” as they say. In Griffith Park, often that’s a very good thing.
Two important Griffith Park amenities have been shuttered, at least, temporarily. Both represent the most historic and inexpensive of all Park attractions for children: the Pony Rides and the Merry-Go-Round. How unfortunate that these facilities are both non-operational at the same time. These two venues attract young families from far-reaching and underserved communities. They are both “magnets” that bring kids to the Park where they are then, intentionally or not, introduced to its nature. So what’s going on? Each has its separate story:
Griffith Park Pony Rides — Closing the Pony Rides came as a shock to most, despite the regular protests by animal rights activists which expended far too much Park Ranger energy to keep the peace there. Three days before Christmas, the Pony Rides closed, on short notice by RAP General Manager Jimmy Kim. The most unfortunate aspect of this decision — there was no public outreach or discussion on the merits of not renewing this concession agreement.
The cancellation leaves the future of the Pony Rides venue, established in 1947, in limbo. RAP has called for the venue to be reimagined. But what does this mean? RAP is considering the possibility that an outside consultant be tasked to make recommendations, while Griffith Park Advisory Board (GPAB) has assembled an ad hoc to also provide solutions. Wow, this all could take a while! In the meantime, FoGP is concerned this area could remain empty, if not blighted, for years.
Our position has been made clear: “FoGP supports a commitment to continued use of this historic venue for the purpose for which it was built, pony rides, introducing children to animals and the equestrian world. Going forward, this could be achieved with a higher degree of sensitivity to animal care. This could become the compromise that benefits and satisfies all.” FoGP’s position is supported in this 4-page letter.
Fortunately, both RAP and CD 4 have gone on record saying the future of the venue does not preclude ponies or pony rides, but that it would be at a different standard to square previous concerns raised. The Cultural Heritage Commission added its support saying that the Pony Rides is a “legacy use” venue within their purview.
Merry-Go-Round — As strange as it sounds, RAP owns the building housing the carousel, but not the 1926 Spillman carousel itself. The carousel has an impressive pedigree as one of the largest made by the prestigious Spillman manufacturer, with four horses abreast for a total of 68 horses plus two chariots.
Fifty-percent owner, Julio Gosdinski, passed away unexpectedly in August 2020. He had become a co-owner in 2011 and was a reason families visited the Merry-Go-Round. Julio loved children and they loved him; he worked the ride since he was a teenager.
Currently, the partial ownership remains in the hands of probate court. FoGP is anxious to see what will transpire and has successfully encouraged the City to become a party of interest.
While the Merry-Go-Round operated for some time after Julio’s death and after COVID restrictions were relaxed, an expensive repair has forced its closure. There is an outpouring of assistance offered by people and organizations, including FoGP, to get this cherished venue re-opened. Sadly, until there is a resolution to its ownership, there will likely not be a commitment to keeping it in operating condition. The City is not in the driver’s seat without ownership, and currently does not even have in-force concession arrangement.
“You don’t know what you got “til it’s gone” is an understatement, considering the strong reaction and public cries to rescue both these affordable and historic jewels for families from across the City.
~Gerry Hans, FoGP President