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by Duff via Audubon Website Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002 at 7:33 PM

Tree Planting Ceremony Marks the Creation of New Nature Center; Green Building to Serve Urban Los Angeles Communities


Los Angeles, CA, Friday, October 25, 2002 - To mark the start of building a new nature center facility in Debs Park, Audubon President & CEO John Flicker, California Congressman Ed Reyes, and members of Audubon California and the Los Angeles Audubon Society today joined community leaders and schoolchildren from East Los Angeles and Highland Park to plant an oak tree at the site where this and future generations of Angelinos will learn about the nature in their backyards and parks.

“Audubon will bring conservation home to urban Los Angeles,” said Audubon’s Flicker. “Children in the city don’t have many opportunities to experience nature. Through today’s tree-planting ceremony, we dedicate ourselves to connecting families with nature by building outdoor education programs where the kids are.”

At the heart of Audubon's strategy has been an innovative, model project: to build and operate a Nature Center in Debs Park. Now that plan will become a reality. Ten minutes from downtown, Debs Park is a surprisingly natural, 195-acre park that is home to more than 80 species of birds. More than 30,000 school children, mostly Latino, live within a two-mile radius of the park, yet many have never visited it. The facility Audubon begins today will provide hands-on education and recreation opportunities in the park, year-round, for children and families not traditionally served by the conservation community.

The Debs Park Nature Center is the product of cooperation between Audubon, the community, elected officials, city staff, and the philanthropic community. “Today’s launch has been achieved through an innovative public/private partnership that brought conservationists, parents, teachers, and public officials together to enhance and restore an existing, City-owned park.” said Jerry Secundy, executive director of Audubon California. “This is a unique and visionary project. The Debs Park Nature Center makes sense - it's the backyard of this community and it will provide those key experiences to encourage understanding and love of nature in our children.”

Since 1999, an Audubon Center has operated from a renovated storefront on the east side of the Los Angeles River in the historic community of Highland Park. The center has provided nature education opportunities for children and families in Northeast and East Los Angeles and has served as the staging ground for the construction of the permanent Debs Park Audubon Center, which begins today. This enterprise has marked the first time a national conservation organization has made a long-term commitment to the heart of urban Los Angeles.

“Today’s ceremony is the culmination of more than a decade’s work with teachers and schools in the Los Angeles Community,” said Melanie Ingalls, Director of the Debs Park Audubon Center. “We believe that direct connection with the natural world - birds, bugs, and plants -at an early age brings people to actively care about the environment as adults. The Debs Park Audubon Center - once built - will fulfill the need for creative, inclusive, multi-cultural environmental education, and will really make that vision come alive.”

Audubon has worked with teachers in Los Angeles schools to help urban kids get in touch with the natural world for more than ten years. Through teacher training, curriculum materials, and outdoor classrooms at the Ballona Wetlands and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area, Audubon has successfully introduced nearly a quarter-million of Los Angeles’s children thus far to the wonders of nature.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based Audubon nature centers and chapters, environmental education programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

# # #

The Audubon Center

6042 Monte Vista Street

Los Angeles, CA 90042

(323) 254-0252 phone

(323) 254-0567 fax

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