History and nostalgia rolled into our local Dinosaur Park

I was introduced to a video that  I wanted to share. Fitting it in with other content is a little uneven, but I’ll contort a bit to make it as congruent as possible. It simply makes me laugh and I enjoy sharing a laugh.

I think most Californians know how the media portrays the state and we know how to laugh at the stereotypes and caricatures that at times label an entire region.

And it is a very large region. But as you already know, the greater Los Angeles area is really made up of many, many smaller cities with rich local history vital to the well-being of its inhabitants–and likely not a part of a tourism campaign.

I recently thought about how “small town” my own city can feel when my daughter brought to my attention the 50 year anniversary of a park that was very special to both my children growing up.

Dinosaur Park Play Day

I had no idea 50 years had passed since the whimsical sea creatures were installed at what was then called “Wells Park.”   DSC_9714

My grandparents lived just a block or two away in an era when it was still possible to walk directly through their neighboring elementary school at the end of their block, no locks or barriers, and with no division between the school playground and this delightful park.


My children have the happiest memories of walking with their great grandparents and spending countless hours here. They grew up with this park. It has long been called “Dinosaur Park”  or “Monster Park” by local children, who, the story goes, saw the sea serpent as a dinosaur, and the name just stuck. DSC_0710

Fifty years ago when the sea creatures were installed I knew nothing of their significance, but in 2006, the Friends of La Laguna formed to restore and preserve “Dinosaur Park” when it was announced that the city intended to demolish it. A dedicated group of people devoted endless hours to preserve this special place. IMG_3606

There’s more than simple nostalgia contributing to why this play equipment is now listed on the California Register of Historical Resources.


The park was designed and constructed by Mexican concrete sculptor Benjamin Dominguez. La Laguna was the capstone of his very long career in Mexico and the United States, where as an artist he blended the artistic medium of his Mexican heritage with children’s play space.


La Laguna of San Gabriel was Dominguez’s final project. He was 70 years old when he was commissioned for this project, and using themes and characters from some of his previously installed playgrounds, our children have grown up with “Minnie” the whale, “Stella” the starfish, “Ozzie” the octopus and “Flipper,” “Speedy,” and “Peanut,” the three dolphins.

DSC_0835   DSC_0712


I’m really grateful to the Friends of La Laguna for their response to save this playground. The Saturday celebration brought out many city officials and the artist’s youngest daughter who appeared to be very touched at the reception and praise of her father’s work and contribution.

If I start with my grandparents and their tie to the neighborhood and this park and then reach to my grandchildren playing on the same equipment, we’re spanning five generations. I think that’s very special all by itself.

It’s not a big tourist draw, I understand, but it’s a little gem in our city, and I’m grateful for the small town, grassroots effort responsible for preserving it for my grandchildren.

Doesn’t this have a small town feel?

46 thoughts on “History and nostalgia rolled into our local Dinosaur Park

  1. Definitely small town Debra…. really heart-warming that it was saved. I much prefer the simplicity of this to something like Disneyland, and I bet the kids do too… commercialism is not necessary for kids – just the adults! LOL!

    1. One of the things that most delighted me about celebrating the park on the day of festivities, was listening to how much pleasure my daughter related to me from her childhood memories. I do try to keep the “simple pleasures” always an option when I’m with my grandchildren, and I hope they will have the same warm memories years from now. It’s a challenge to keep uber-commercialism from taking over, no matter where we live, I think! I will go down trying. LOL! Thank you, Cathy.

    1. I’m so accustomed the parodies and caricatures related to Californians that they just make me laugh. I know better, so bring it on, I guess. My favorite part of the video came after 10 seconds, though…referencing our proximity to the Andes. LOL! Simple pleasures are always a delight, and if I overindulge anywhere, it might be in that area. 🙂 Thank you, Jo.

    1. A very small number of people worked very hard to protect the park and highlight the artist’s work. They stand as a good reminder to what we can accomplish when determined and organized. At the same time I give a little credit to the city managers for not fighting back. It was upkeep and maintenance, translate that “liability,” that most threatened the demise, and people, including myself, were happy to donate to the conservancy. The place obviously holds a sweet spot in my heart! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Martin.

  2. Score a point for good and rightiousness!
    Being from the land of the real “USC” (South Carolina), we do not care much about LA Elites, so who is “dad the producer”?
    All joking aside, thanks for highlighting a great, local accomplishment.

    1. Do you like “elites” who live elsewhere? Los Angeles sure holds a high place of disregard in a lot of minds. LOL! We’re a UCLA family… so USC? Is there any other than South Carolina? And I have no idea who the “producer” is…seems like a nice enough guy with an airhead son. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the video … definitely full of chuckles through stereotypes while delivering a visual message. 🙂

    Dinosaur Park, a small town feel? From your description I would say, partially … well, back in the day of the no-barrier connection between the park and school, then yes … in terms of the type of playground equipment … sorry … nope. But a good try. (And at least I didn’t embed the buzzer). 😉

    1. That’s so nice to hear, Nancy. I have very few sensitivities when it comes to the criticisms, other than when people think they know what they’re talking about and have never been here. If all I knew of SoCal were the media images I wouldn’t be happy here either. I hope sometimes we can meet when you’re here. I’d like that!

      1. That would be awesome, Debra. I just hired a field sales rep who will be based in Orange County, so I’m hoping I’ll get to spend more time there now!

  4. As you know parks hold a special place. My kids have their favorites in small and big towns across the country. They’d skip most tourist attractions to play at a good park. And for as cautious as we have to be as parents these days, it is fun to see the kids make friends with other kids that are strangers and that they’ll likely never see again. They play as though they’ve always known each other, making up games and just being kids. I find parks to be magical. This one looks like a gem. My kids would adore it for sure! Thanks for the trip down memory lane – five generations is impressive!!!

    1. You hit upon one reason this park is so much fun for the children. For one thing, the park is small enough to sit in one spot and watch the children for their safety without needing to hover. And then as to safety, the equipment was created, and is now protected because of the historical status, and hasn’t been made so “safe” that it is no longer fun. So many parks have become so concerned about liability that equipment size and placement have taken the fun out of a park for any child older than 5. I do enjoy taking the children to different parks and I always feel a little younger when I do–a nice benefit. Thank you so much for stopping by, Kristy. I hope summer gives you and the family many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors!

  5. I think it has a wonderful, warm and neighborly feel, Debra. Also, it’s one more piece of proof that a small group of determined and dedicated people CAN make a difference. It would have been such a shame to lose this small treasure. I hope your grandchildren’s grandchildren will enjoy it one day.

    1. I’m so glad the “warm and neighborly” aspect came through. Those components contributed to my sense of this being a community effort, bringing the boundaries of such a large metropolis closer to home. I get very nostalgic when I’m there. I can point to where my grandparents lived, but I can no longer see the house from the park. Too many barriers, which really points to how things have grown and changed over thirty years. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Karen. 🙂

  6. As a kid I loved places like this but there weren’t any in walking distance. When we drove to one, my Mom would have a hard time getting me out of there. Now I sick on anything that goes in circles and wouldn’t think of climbing a dino. Childhood is such a special time and your town certainly knows that.

    1. It’s funny you mention that you couldn’t imagine climbing things like the dinosaur NOW, but did as a kid. There’s a bridge spanning a very deep water diversion system (for those odd times it rains,LOL) right by this park. We could walk across it when I was a child. We’d leave my grandparents house and on the way to the park we’d often hang all over that thing! It was dangerous, and we had no idea at the time how dangerous. Now, of course, I look at it in horror at what we risked. And, of course today it’s completely covered in “anti-child” protection. I enjoy watching the children NOT be afraid…they do comment that I say “be careful” entirely too frequently, though.

      1. and THAT is the beauty of childhood. No fear. However, in today’s world it doesn’t last long. We drum all kinds of things into their heads that hopefully keep them safe but also squash that lack of fear thing.

    1. I’m so glad you thought the video was funny, Susie. I just laughed and laughed. Saturday Night Live devoted a full 10 minutes to making fun of Californians in their 40th Anniversary show so the stereotypes hit home somewhere. 🙂 The sculptures are indeed very playful and for me, a really nice place to be and nurse some happy memories. Thank you, Susie.

  7. Mr. Google let you down! Sometimes it’s called La Laguna de San Gabriel…so many different names..”Monster Park,” “Dinosaur Park,” and Vincent Lugo Park. I think it’s perhaps a little confusing. But it’s a very nice little pocket of nostalgia. Thank you for stopping by and admiring. 🙂

    1. The park has almost an old-fashioned feel to me, Nancy. The equipment is 50 years old, but I think not having all the current safety standards in place makes it more fun! I’ve taken the girls to parks before that don’t seem like that much fun to me compared to what I grew up with, but maybe that was because I was a lot smaller and things seemed larger to me. 🙂

    1. You have very good ears to even hear the music, Rommel! 🙂 I have always enjoyed seeing my home state through your eyes. I think you know more about some of the more interesting, off the path places than many of my friends who have lived here for years, my friend! I always enjoy hearing from you! Thank you for stopping by.

  8. It DOES have a small town feel, Debra. I love the efforts of the townspeople in preserving the part. We have seen so many small parks disappear with strip malls and housing divisions in their place.

    I understand the frustration of how others perceive California. We have similar stereotypes here. Both Chicago and the suburbs have so much history about them and so many little cities within the big City of Chicago – and really, truly, I promise not all of our politicians go to jail. 🙂

    1. Sometimes the stereotypes are just funny. When I saw the movie “Clueless” i just loved the way the main characters were over-the-top caricatures. But I have read comments from people who said they’d never come to California because it was too “flashy,” and that told me they only knew of one small aspect of life here. I would have liked for them to see the mountains or the Redwoods. I think that gross generalities must be true of every state, and I do think that blogging has provided a way for me to gain more than a little insight into the wonderful diversity across the country and I only wish I were in a position to do more travel! I was in Chicago just once, Penny, and loved it…I am determined to visit again! 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful comment. Our parks are little treasures and children need them more today than ever. It’s nice to see children run and play without an electronic device in their hands! 🙂

  9. I love this Debra! Five generations of your family enjoying the same space…what a special thing to share! I’m also starting to love our “small” town (KC is actually a lot bigger than I had imagined!)…although our little neighborhood does have that “small town” feel you were talking about 🙂

  10. I am so happy to see you here, Stacey! Catherine and I were talking about you today and saying that we missed you! I am thrilled that you are finding your new home to be a special place, and it must be very fun to make a first home as a married couple and learn all about a new city while you learn all about each other. Every day must be an adventure! Thank you for stopping by, my dear friend. I am so glad to hear from you. ox

  11. I am so glad that park was not destroyed! If I ever got to California I would want to see it (and would make plans to BE in that area to see it). The commercial was hilarious. 🙂 I love people who have fun! Even in commercials. 🙂

  12. I loved the video, especially the bit about gold miners crossing the Andes mountains! What a fantastic park! All children would just love to play amongst all those ‘monsters’. It’s fantastic that even though time has moved on, the playground remains the same xx

    1. I’m really glad you took a couple minutes to check out the “Come to California” video, Charlie. It really made me laugh. My favorite part was also the Death Valley and “the Andes” nonsense. LOL! And our lithe park is so special with the sea creatures! The artist really left behind quite a gift! 🙂

  13. Deborah the Closet Monster

    It does have a small town feel! It actually reminds me of a park near the river in my own hometown, though the play sculptures at the park I’m recalling remain smaller and run down. I can easily imagine Li’l D having a blast here.

    We’re considering moving up into LA proper or the Valley. I remember moving back here in ’08 and thinking, “The best part is how much there is to do!” Now the hour+ drive north is one I seldom make, and I miss the closeness of that stuff … even if I only partake once every couple of months. 🙂

    1. I’m sure that the thought of moving deeper into L.A.is a very big consideration. It’s true there are so many things to do, but the off-set to that sometimes is the number of people doing them! Ha! I wonder about the congestion sometimes and whether at some point I will find it all too much. I’m not there yet, so I won’t borrow trouble. Your little guy would definitely love the “dinosaur park.” My children still talk about how much they loved it as children, and now my grandchildren play there. Good luck with the decisions regarding moving. Making changes is such a big event in the life of a family, and the decision making can be challenging. Thanks for stopping by, Deborah. 🙂

  14. What a cute park…I have never seen anything like it, how special that you have been able to share a variety of memories…may you enjoy many, many more years of joy hear with your grandchildren.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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