Tackling "Nature Deficit Disorder" in South L.A.

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On Saturday, California State Parks celebrated the grand opening of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, a 65-acre park and trail system in the heart of South Los Angeles.  Dignitaries and community activists raved about the state-of-the-art visitor center and the stunning 360-degree views of the L.A. basin.  But Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stole the show when he professed to suffering - like many Angelenos do - from "nature deficit disorder."

He was mostly joking, of course, but L.A.'s serious lack of parkland is no laughing matter.  Urban Los Angeles is one of the most park-poor areas in the nation, with fewer acres of parkland per resident than any other major city.  Without adequate green space, these often lower-income communities of color don't receive the many benefits that come with parks, like a healthier local environment, access to low-cost recreation, and the chance to experience and connect with nature up close.

The Baldwin Hills present a golden opportunity to provide the communities of South L.A. with the parkland they so desperately need.  Many Angelenos only know the Baldwin Hills by the endless oil derricks and tanks that dot the hills along La Cienega on the way to LAX.  But the community has had visions of a park in the Baldwin Hills for decades.  In fact, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy has adopted a Park Master Plan that envisions a world-class, two-square-mile regional park - one that would rival New York City's Central Park and Orange County's Great Park in terms of sheer size and scale.

The unveiling of the Scenic Overlook on Saturday is a terrific achievement and shows that we're slowly making progress toward that goal.  But we've still only protected a small fraction of the Baldwin Hills as parkland.  There's a lot more work that needs to be done before South L.A. residents can claim victory over "nature deficit disorder," and NRDC will be there every step of the way.