Celebrate Los Angeles' Open Spaces on National Public Lands Day

Sunset in Angeles National Forest, just ten miles from downtown LA | Photo credit: Mel Stoutsberger

What comes to mind when you think of Los Angeles? The Hollywood sign? Disneyland? In-N-Out?

What about a sunset at Dockweiler State Beach? Or the panoramic views visible from the top of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook? Or the winding trails of Griffith Park--only some of which lead you past the Hollywood sign?


In spite of the smog and the snarl of traffic, Los Angeles is a city full of beautiful vistas, dusty trails, and incredible biodiversity. Once you know where to look, you'll be surprised at just how many natural resources you can find, nestled above freeways and tucked between neighborhoods. In the nation's second-largest city, there's all the more reason to cherish these slices of open space.

This Saturday, in honor of National Public Lands Day, we'll be doing just that--celebrating the richness of our region's public lands and open space. Launched by the National Environmental Education Foundation, National Public Lands Day is a chance to educate our communities about our environment and natural resources, as well as the need for shared stewardship and volunteer efforts. We're excited to mark the occasion with the U.S. Forest Service, San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority, and other partner organizations that help conserve, maintain, and advocate for the parks and open spaces in our city. (For more details about the celebration, see below.)

National Public Lands Day is an opportunity to recognize the natural beauty of our region, but also to look forward to a greener, more equitable future. In spite of a few large swaths of protected lands, Los Angeles County is actually one of the most park poor urban areas in the nation. We rank in the bottom half of major American cities in spending on parks and recreational services. And serious disparities by race and income further strand disadvantaged communities on islands of asphalt and busy streets. Without adequate access to green space, these communities can't receive the park benefits Angelenos elsewhere enjoy: opportunities for low-cost physical activity, safe public spaces for families and children, and a peaceful respite from the stresses of urban life.

Inequities like these are why NRDC and other local organizations have made it a priority to increase access to parks and open spaces, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities. And there's a lot to look forward to. We're proud to support the San Gabriels National Monument, which will expand recreational opportunities for many communities in the San Gabriel Valley - and beyond. We're excited to see progress on the permanent facilities at Los Angeles State Historic Park, for which we joined a broad multicultural coalition of activists to save. And we're advocating for the most comprehensive plan for the Rim of the Valley recreational area in the San Fernando Valley.

With all of this, Saturday's celebration is a chance to mark a new page in our city's parks history. So maybe the next time someone mentions Los Angeles, you won't think of hamburgers or celebrities--you'll think of a park.

Join us at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument (125 Paseo de La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012) from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, September 26 to celebrate National Public Lands Day!

Thank you to my colleague Julie Mendel for contributing to this post.


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