Take a scenic hike through… Boyle Heights?

Jordan O’Kelley, Community News Reporter

When you think of taking a long, recreational walk-in California, images of sunny hillsides and calm beaches may come to mind, not the bustling streets of Los Angeles.

However, representatives of an organization called Angels Walk L.A. think that this scenery is just what the city needs and they’re hoping to get the walks operating soon.

The organization — founded 20 years ago by community activist Deanna Molloy — has developed 13 routes to walk on in Los Angeles that highlight the history and cultural significance of buildings and places that would otherwise fade into the city’s background.

One of these thirteen routes is in Boyle Heights, meant to guide walkers to the many historical sites in the area and spread awareness of just how much history is baked into areas like Boyle Avenue and buildings in the neighborhood.

Much like other organizations and local historical societies, Angels Walk L.A. has struggled to promote its walks and establish new ones.

“We had this launch in 2019, but…we have yet to have an opening of this because of the pandemic and other things that have disrupted everybody’s life so far,” said E.A. Tenorio, a Boyle Heights historian and a contributor on the Angels Walk L.A. project. 

Similarly, the Boyle Heights Historical Society, which aims to raise awareness of the area’s history, has paused virtually all operations since the pandemic started.

“We had plans to revitalize the organization; we were going to do some photos and get-togethers, but with COVID, it’s, ‘How do we still accomplish this, that we practice social distancing and safely do this?’” Diane Ybarra, the historical society’s founder, said. “We need to do a big fundraiser because we need the money, we need a site, and we need students and future board members. So, that’s a process, and we all have to work together, but if we can’t work together, it’s gonna stay stagnant and fizzle away.”

Angels Walk L.A. hopes to continue handing out guides and maps, though some of the places in the current brochures have either moved or gone out of business during the pandemic, Tenorio said.

“Our historic Boyle Ave. corridor is currently undergoing some pushback in the preservation process…to preserve the Sakura Gardens or the Japanese retirement home. Several groups in the community are trying to seek historic recognition not only for its contribution to the Japanese community but as the property of the Workman family. The property was sold and is scheduled to be condos,” Tenorio wrote in an email. “Other projects include the last Japanese restaurant in [Boyle Heights], the [Otomisan], and the Haru’s Florist that went out of business last year.”

These businesses’ demise adds a sense of urgency and importance to these operations.

Preserving Boyle Heights’ history is “important because it reflects the diversity of the community. There’s all these people that came together at one time and one place and created something… it’s a kettle that created that American soup… All of these ingredients that spice up and make our country delicious,” Tenorio said. “This is what we want to preserve, this is what we want to share, and this is what we think will be the thing that people embrace and want to keep going forward in the future.”