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Sea-Study Park a Catch for L.A.

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Officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District--attempting not to look a gift horse in the mouth--are trying to turn it into a sea horse.

They are proposing to construct a "multipurpose educational park'' combining a marine-research center and an environmental-education facility on the site of a former Army post overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The property was a gift from the federal government that could be rescinded if the district fails to make use of it soon.

The proposed park would operate as a facility for the study of injured marine animals and a center for research activities of university science departments and environmental-research groups.

In addition, students from the Los Angeles schools would visit the research center and an outdoor education park designed for environmental studies.

The federal government, which gave the 52-acre San Pedro parcel to the district in 1979, has given tentative approval for the project.

The parcel originally was ceded to the school district for construction of a high school. The school was never built, however, and district officials had to come up with an alternative plan or return it to the federal government.

The U.S. Education Department has accepted the plan for the park, provided the district makes significant progress on it soon. The department will make a final decision later this year.

The district already has earmarked $5 million for the project. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., the publishing firm that also owns the Sea World theme parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla., has promised $3 million. Other corporations and foundations have pledged $1 million. And officials hope to obtain another $1 million from the sale of land the district won in a lawsuit.

Under the proposal, an existing adult-education facility located on the site, the San Pedro-Wilmington Skills Center, also would be expanded to emphasize training for jobs in the marine industry.

If the park is given final approval this year, it could open in phases beginning about 1991, district officials said. They hope to develop and operate it solely with donated funds.

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