This past week has been full of activity between preparations for the FYF Fest and a Congressional send off rally in support of health care reform by Organizing for America and Health Access Foundation California that brought hundreds of supporters, and a few protesters, to the park on Thursday. After a week of 100 degree plus temperatures and blankets of smoke from the Station Fire, the weather turned perfect for this event offering a surprisingly cool and pleasant evening. Whatever side of the debate you may be on, I think we can all agree that it’s great to see a peaceful gathering with more than enough room for differing points of view.
No, not the gritty kind one finds under bridges and behind dumpsters, but the California State Parks variety with city skyline, marshmallows, and power point. LASHP began the Sunset Campfire program in November of 2008 as the culmination of previous year’s “Virtual Campfire” program. The Virtual Campfire program brought State Parks and its award winning Interpretive Team to the most urban of settings, elementary schools in and around Los Angeles. Now, the kids are coming to us as the Campfire really heats up against the backdrop of downtown Los Angeles.
This past Saturday, Park Interpretive Specialist, Thomas Carroll, really wowed the crowd with some games, songs, and a presentation on the railroad history of early Los Angeles and LASHP in its original incarnation as the Southern Pacific River Station. As, if that weren’t enough, Thomas followed it all up with a sunset marshmallow roast! Attendance at our campfires has been slowly growing and the next Campfire on September 19th promises to be the biggest and best of all.
We’ve been just dying for an excuse to share samples of Charley Harper’s mid-century fabulous artwork, and here it is. Please excuse our little indulgence and enjoy the brief diversion. We think it will be worth your while.
Harper was an illustrator and designer whose minimalist artwork centered on natural subjects, notably birds. He’s best known for illustrating The Giant Golden Book of Biology, but also provided artwork for National Park Service posters and other natural resource organizations, such regional parks, wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers and local Audubon Chapters. We stumbled upon Harper’s work awhile back when searching for information and images of Cliff Swallows and have been enchancted ever since with his whimsical representations of our local feathered friends.
For those of you with an interest in the the Los Angeles River, or any curious Angelenos who enjoy theater in an unusual setting, be sure not to miss the Cornerstone Theater Company’s production of Touch the Water. Part of Cornerstone Theater’s four year series, the Justice Cycle, Touch the Water fittingly focuses on environmental justice issues related to the turbulent history of the Los Angeles River, from devestating floods, to channelization of the river for flood control, to current revilatilaztion efforts. Told from the perspective of characters with deep connections to the Los Angeles River, be they animal, human, or spirits in between, the play explores the complex intersection of nature, community and a wildly heterogenous urban environment.
The setting of the play is ideal, occuring in an undeveleloped section of Rio de Los Angeles State Park. The stage set overlooks the Glendale Narrows which is the longest natural section of the Los Angeles River. The natural riparian environment provides habitat for egrets, heron, black-necked stilt, and other water fowl that may sometimes also be seen in the less scenic regions of the 52 mile concrete river channel. LASHP staff was on hand last Saturday for a pre-performmance reception and viewing, and was throughoughly enchanted by the natural river beneath an immense and spectacularly cloudy sky. If you are interested in seeing the play, it is running for only two more weeks, so hurry up. Click the link below for more information. Touch the Water
This past weekend, LASHP got down and cheesy welcoming the 1st 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. The day was cool with a nice breeze and couldn’t have been better for all that hot grillin’ action and thousands of eager Angelenos who lined up throughout the day hoping to get in on the cheesy deliciousness. And as far as I could tell, the real competition involved actually getting a morsel of sandwich. Crowds jammed the competitor tables with us “judges” screaming and waving tasting tickets wildly. The Los Angeles skyline became the backdrop for the floor of the grilled cheese commodities exchange. Unless you had a inside contact, it was pretty difficult to tell what you were begging for or what you were going to get. When I finally ended up with a paper plate, ballot, and solid square inch of “sammich,” it was the Krafty Bastard that I sampled- entered in the missionary category of nothing but good old, grandma-sanctioned bread, cheese, and butter. Then came the Kama Sutra category and things got creative with the arrival of an open-faced noodley number, the Spaghetti Western – just a bit too much carb-on-carb action for my delicate sensibilities. Should have jumped on the sammich with tchotcke, that’s more my speed!
Congratulations to Superintendent Sean Woods and the Los Angeles Sector Rangers and Interpretive Team on winning the Olmsted Award for Leadership and Vision! Between the Olmsted Award and the opening of Baldwin, it’s been quite week for team Los Angeles. Our urban parks don’t quite fit the mold of most traditional State Parks, and for that we say, go L.A.! That’s what the Los Angeles Sector is all about – Reaching out to areas that need State Parks the most and sharing the State Parks Mission. Well Done.
This Saturday CSP Los Angeles Sector was pleased to celebrate the grand opening of our newest park, the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (BHSO.) Beginning the day with a musical welcome from the Dorsey High School Choir we shared the accomplishment and beautiful day with community members, elected officials, and partners, Los Angeles Audubon and the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, who helped make the park vision a reality. Ron Schafer, Angeles District Superintendent and Master of Ceremonies, emphasized that the preservation of these 50 acres in urban Los Angeles, supported by community advocates such as the Friends of Baldwin Hills is no less an accomplishment than the preservation and opening of the first modern State Park, Big Basin Redwoods, by the Sempervirens Club in 1904.
In fact, the opening of BHSO marks the culmination of California State Parks Urban Parks Initiative in Los Angeles, following the opening of Los Angeles State Historic Park in 2006, and Rio de Los Angeles State Park in 2007. Through the acquisition of land and development of these new parks, CSP has established a solid presence in the city’s most densley populated areas and demonstrated its commitment to preserving available open space in park-poor urban neighborhoods. Director Ruth Coleman was on hand to thank park supporters, young volunteers, and staff as well as accept commendations from the County of Los Angeles and Culver City.
We had a great turnout of local residents, many commenting that they lived within walking distance and had come to the event on foot. Much to our delight, parking was not an issue. Visitors enjoyed views from the overlook, exhibits in the new visitor center, nature walks, and bird watching. Music provided by the Culver City High School Jazz Combo and healthy food served up by Urban Green Cuisine rounded out what proved to be a pleasant and relaxing celebration.
The day’s true success, however, must be credited to the scores of hard working students who volunteered their Saturday to assist with native plant restoration, help rangers manage parking, and provide entertainment for the crowd. The Crenshaw High Eco-Club was out in force as was LA Audubon’s contingent of young volunteers. Also present a volunteer group coordinated by local mothers from Jack and Jill, an African-American service organization with a 70 plus year history.
The legacy of the Urban Park’s Initiative will be dependent upon the continued nurturing of a conservation ethic among young park visitors and volunteers. And ultimately, this enthusiastic service and demonstration of stewardship must be counted as State Parks’ greatest success. Moving forward, the provision of high quality environmental education and interpretive programs will be a major focus of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It turns out that opening a park is the easy part – as Sector Superintendent Sean Woods, says, “Now the work begins.” Fortunately, it is the work to which we at California State Parks all look forward.
Over the past few weeks, LASHP has been all about BHSO – Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook – the newest California State Park set to open in Los Angeles this weekend, April 18. The Los Angeles Sector has been quite busy, along with District headquarters, and partners Los Angeles Audubon and Baldwin Hills Conservancy, planning this weekend’s grand opening event and activities. If you would like to check out the spectacular new visitor center and even more spectacular views of the city, the park is located at 6300 Hetzler Road in Culver City. Saturday’s event will include dignitaries, musical entertainment, guided nature tours, bird watching, native plant restoration, eco crafts, and healthy food and refreshments for the whole family from 12:00 – 4:00pm.
Even though the LASHP staff has already spent a fair amount of time at BHSO during the planning and construction phases, there have still been moments amid the furious coordination activity when we were suddenly taken with the peacefulness and truly amazing views of the landscape. “We wanted to provide a tranquil respite from big city life,” said State Parks Director Ruth Coleman. “Now people living in this highly congested area can get out and experience nature close to home.” Visit the overlook and I think you’ll agree that it truly is a respite and quite a special place that Angelenos will enjoy for years to come.
“It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character, particularly if this contemplation occurs in connection with relief from ordinary cares, change of air and habits, is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect beyond any other conditions which can be offered them, but it not only gives pleasure for the time being but increases the subsequent capacity for happiness and the means of securing that happiness.”