Compton Creek Natural Park Now Open

Ranger Collin O’Mara–Green led a group of fourth graders through a windy path along the newly built Compton Creek Natural Park at George Washington elementary school and pointed at a dark green sage plant.

“Now I want you to touch the leaves and smell your fingers,” said O’Mara-Green, a guide for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. The oohs and ahhs filled the air as the students commented on the peppery, minty smell of the plant. Since their school grounds are entirely covered with asphalt, they had never seen a sage plant at close range before—never mind touch one. But now that they have a new nature park just out the back door, the students will be able to run in the grass, smell the flowers and learn about nature as part of their daily routine and classroom instruction.

“Since we only play on the blacktop, we never had plants to smell actually,” said 9-year-old Nathalie Razo. “These sage plants smell better than flowers.”

[raw]It was the first time students got the chance to tour the three-acre park, which was formerly an abandoned muddy field with rolling tumbleweeds. The restored park and habitat, which has a walking path and exercise equipment, is the first phase of a three-part master plan that eventually will include a youth center and headquarters for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and an urban playfield with a total of four miles of space for the entire community to enjoy.
The park was completed with the support of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Natural Resources Agency, the Coastal Conservancy, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority. In addition, the cistern will hold 127,000 gallons of water beneath the lawn to collect rainwater which will be used to water the park.

“This park is all about implementing a dream, a vision and a master plan, for a cleaner and greener watershed,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas, who helped fund the project. “We believe that Compton Creek can and should be more than a storm drain—it should be the centerpiece of revitalization and recreation within this community.”[/raw]

The park is an example of how nonprofits, schools, cities, states and counties can pull together to create a new learning environment and recreation area for all people in a community to enjoy. George Washington elementary principal Dr. Omaira Lee said the park would be embraced as an educational resource.

“This park will bring students a safe and educational connection to their natural environment,” she said.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” added Polly Escovedo, program manager for the California Natural Resources Agency. “We are hoping that this will be a model for other school districts.”

Two hundred years ago, Compton Creek was a lively creekbed with fish and rocks and all the wildlife habitat that a river area cultivates. But due to flooding dangers, the creek was cemented and turned into a storm channel many years ago—something that devastated the wildlife and habitat.
But as the sycamores, oaks, sage grasses and wildflowers begin to take root, the butterflies, hummingbirds and lizards also will return.

Indeed as 5th grader Teo Thomas noted, “Compton Creek Natural Park is more than a park to us. For many of us it is a source of pride and joy.”

Metro Construction Boom Brings Opportunities

Hundreds of jobs and scores of contracts will be available for Los Angeles business owners with the upcoming construction of the Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line and other transit and highway projects. Hopeful consultants, contractors and people looking for employment turned out to the recent Metro sponsored business opportunities summit at the California African American Museum to show off their company resumes and get a foot in the door.

The construction of 12 rail lines, 15 highway projects and 2,000 bus lines, will hopefully ease congestion and pollution in Los Angeles County. But these projects could also be economic engines.

“Metro is revolutionizing this place,” said Metro CEO Arthur Leahy. “And a lot of jobs are being created.”

The Crenshaw-to-LAX rail line, which is scheduled to begin construction next year, will span 8.5 miles from South Los Angeles to the airport. The $2 billion project is seen as a catalyst for the Crenshaw corridor which is expected to see more investment and business development once the Crenshaw line is built.

“Metro is embarking on one of the largest public works programs the nation has seen in years,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is also on the Metro board and was instrumental in getting a stop on the Crenshaw line at Leimert Park. “There is a lot going on and we have an agenda of economic development, small business development and a diversity of opportunity.”

Opportunity is exactly what Erika Bennett is seeking. She is hoping her company, Total Transportation Services Inc., a trucking company that transports cement and dirt to construction sites, will become one of the sub-consultants for the large firm that was awarded the Crenshaw contract, Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors.

“This is a good meet and greet,” she said, as she walked up to the Walsh Shea table and introduced herself to the executives for the company.

Other attendees, such as Matsimela McMorris, were simply looking for a job. McMorris, who has been unemployed for more than a year, applied for a position as a custodian with Metro. But at the event, McMorris saw other possibilities, including becoming a bus operator.

“It is really good to be able to come here and meet people,” he said. “Online, you can’t really tell people your story.”

For more information and job postings:

West Athens Community Garden Opening Saturday

Whether you are a community resident, a garden lover, food enthusiast or healthy food activist, all are welcome to help inaugurate the brand new West Athens Community Garden this Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

The community garden, once a vacant lot and eyesore in the neighborhood, features 30 raised garden beds, fruit trees, a play structure for children, a walking path along the entire perimeter, and a rainwater cistern specifically targeting children under the age of 5. The garden event, hosted by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas,also was made possible through a children’s collaborative program called Little Green Fingers, which is funded by First 5 LA, a non-profit education organization.

The garden, spearheaded by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, is one of eight community gardens built to help address the obesity epidemic in Los Angeles County. Not only will children and their families enjoy planting new crops and learning about food cycles, but they also will have ongoing classes led by a master gardener and enjoy free cooking and nutrition lessons. The community garden will also serve as a model of sustainability with the installation of a 200 square foot rainwater cistern which can capture up to 1700 gallons of water annually–enough to provide water for most of the fruit trees that have been planted in the garden.

“This garden is a one-stop shop for play, education and healthy living,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “I look forward to seeing more gardens like this throughout the Second District.”

Eastern Ridgeline Walking Trail Opens in Hahn Park

As Samuel Kinney took a rest on a bench in the newly built trail along the eastern rim of Kenneth Hahn Park in the Baldwin Hills, he nodded his head approvingly.

“I think this is going to save a lot of lives,” he said looking at the ¾ mile trail, with its new fitness equipment and child-friendly animal sculptures. “In terms of being healthy, this is the best way to get free exercise; this is the way to lower your blood pressure. Here I can get my exercise in the open air. All of this is beautiful.”

[raw]For years, residents who lived in View Park or Windsor Hills had to drive to get into Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, a 308 acre site developed in 1984. But now, all pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to access the southeastern section of the park through the newly opened Eastern Ridgeline Trail. Its newly made paths are wheelchair accessible and are lined with “workout stations” where anyone can get an upper body strength workout in along with their walk.

The new trail, which sits atop the mountain showing vistas of downtown Los Angeles, connects the existing most northern parking lot all the way to the 5-points intersection at La Brea Avenue, Stocker Street and Overhill Drive. The $3 million-investment to open up the trail came from a Baldwin Hills Conservancy grant and $100,000 from the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“We have spared no effort in bringing this to the people of this district,” said the Supervisor. “This opens up the park to all of the community and we do it with pride, pleasure and a sense of commitment. And, this is just the beginning.”

The Eastern Ridgeline trail is the first part of planned “park to playa” regional trail, which will eventually create a 13-mile pedestrian route from Baldwin Hills to the Pacific Ocean. There are also plans to build the Stoneview Nature Center, which will serve as the first county-run nature center with an emphasis on urban gardening and healthy living.

Allan Kingston, chairman of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, noted that the newly established trail will do much to bring back more wildlife into the park—a sign of a healthy habitat.

“I look forward to seeing more possums and skunks and raccoons and of course birds,” he said. “We have to protect nature and preserve it for the future.”[/raw]

First 5 LA Allocates $10 Million to Aid Homeless Families

First 5 LA, a nonprofit organization that funds early education programs for children from infancy to the age of five, allocated $10 million to provide rental assistance to homeless families and supportive services to those at risk of becoming homeless.

The nonprofit’s board also voted to eliminate a past program requirement that limited eligibility to applicants with an allegation of family abuse or neglect that had been investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The motion, brought by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman and First 5 Commission Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, guarantees that hundreds of low-income families will receive the support services they need to get back on their feet. The assistance typically lasts six to nine months.

“This motion is intended to keep families together, off the streets and with a roof over their heads,” said the supervisor after the vote. “I applaud First 5 in taking these important steps to prevent kids from being homeless and — even worse — separated from their families.”

Data shows that children in families that become homeless are at a significantly higher risk of being removed from the family.

“A safe, stable home every night plays a critical role in supporting the overall development of L.A. County’s children,” said First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshé. “The additional funds approved by the First 5 LA Commission will help ensure more families with young children are able to secure the housing and supportive services so vital to strengthening families and improving child outcomes.”

At the meeting, Karen Acfalle, director of family programs for Beyond Shelter, publically recalled a family of eight, with six children, ages 2 to 15-years-old who came to her office a year ago for assistance.

The family lost their oldest child who was 21 years old in an accident on the I-5 freeway. They exhausted their savings to pay for the funeral and during the same time the father lost his job. Eviction from their home followed, as did a hardscrabble life: the family, which slept in its minivan, dined by heating frozen burritos on the dashboard, visited the local Laundromat for hot water for their instant noodles and showered at the YMCA. Acfalle, noted that the passage of today’s motion will allow Beyond Shelter to find permanent housing for the family.

“This motion means that there is hope for this family,” said Acfalle. “Housing is a right and the financial support from this motion will help this family regain efficiency and obtain housing.”

Joining Acfalle in testimony at the First 5 LA Board meeting were speakers from Upward Bound House, Shelter Partnership, Inc., the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles and L.A. Family Housing who each attested to both the need and the ability to assist more families with this motion.