A Creek Flows in Compton

Flowing through stands of marsh grass rooted to a soft bottom,
Compton Creek is an oddity in Los Angeles. Unlike other area
waterways, the Compton Creek bed hasn’t been entirely paved over,
thus saving it from having to serve as a Hollywood backdrop for
drag races and car chases. A four-mile stretch of the stream
retains natural elements despite being enveloped by a sprawling
city. Writing in
, Judith Lewis
describes the urban creek and its
environs as ‘a diorama of the Emerald City in the middle of the
Nevada Test Site.’ But, as she makes clear, this outwardly lush
creek hasn’t been spared in the least.

About 10 tons of trash have been pulled out of the creek each of
the last three years, according to Meredith McCarthy, who heads
coastal cleanups for the nonprofit Heal the Bay. Water samples are
showing high levels of coliform bacteria and lead. And city plans
to build a ‘commercial power center’ along the bank of the creek
have roiled environmentalists. They say they wouldn’t necessarily
have been opposed to the center, but didn’t hear of the plans until
it was too late to take any sort of action. They worry encroaching
development will further threaten the health of the creek.
Meanwhile, council members see the big-box store center as a step
in the right direction for Compton, a city beleaguered by poverty,
violence, and negative press. Most appealing to the council is the
prospect of the center generating tax revenue that would replenish
the city’s dwindling coffers. The defenders of the creek are aware
of Compton’s economic straits; but they worry that the value of the
stream has been left out of the discussion.
Archie Ingersoll

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Creek Flows in Compton

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