Contact: Linda Vanderveer Mobile 646/303-2888 212/979-3197 Nicole Possert Mobile 323/449-6998 323/255-5792 URBAN AUDUBON CENTER OPENS IN EAST L.A. Only the Second Urban Audubon Center in America; Sustainably Designed Building Functions Completely 'Off the Grid' Los Angeles, CA Thursday, November 6, 2003 - Children and families throughout East and Northeast Los Angeles were among the many who celebrated today as the much-anticipated Audubon Center at Debs Park opened its doors in the Highland Park/Montecito Heights community. The Audubon Center at Debs Park will provide opportunities for residents of some of L.A.'s most densely populated neighborhoods to learn about the natural world through hands-on outdoor experiences in the park's 282 acres of urban wilderness. The Audubon Center is a model of sustainable design, operating entirely on solar power. It is the first building in Los Angeles to fully function off both the electric and sewer grids. The grand opening of the Audubon Center was marked by an All Species Parade, which wound up the driveway to the Audubon Center. Nearly 100 students from local schools carried papier mâché masks and giant puppets of the birds and bugs of Debs Park. Mayor Jim Hahn, City Councilman Ed Reyes, National Audubon Society President John Flicker, and representatives from the dozens of area businesses joined the students and the organizations that helped bring the Audubon Center at Debs Park to life. "For nearly a century Audubon's mission has been to connect people with nature," said Audubon President John Flicker. "In places like Los Angeles, it can be challenging to make that connection. The Audubon Center at Debs Park will help urban residents bridge that gap. It is a place that will inspire a lifelong passion for conservation." The facility at Debs Park is only the second Audubon Center in the U.S. to be located in the heart of a city, and is a cornerstone of Audubon's national initiative to bring conservation to a broader, more diverse audience. "For too long the environmental movement has spoken to a narrow segment of the American public," said Robert Stephens, Trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. "Opening new eyes to nature in communities like East L.A. is both timely and inspiring. That's why the Packard Foundation is so proud to be involved. " Programs at the Audubon Center have been geared toward the largely Latino population that lives in the neighborhoods surrounding Debs Park, particularly the 50,000 schoolchildren and their families who live within a two-mile radius of the park. Programs at the Center are offered in English and Spanish, and focus on the plants and animals found right in the park to illustrate basic concepts, creating a direct and positive relationship with the local natural world. Scientific discovery is encouraged through active outdoor exploration - hiking, birding, and monitoring the park's plants, mammals, butterflies and reptiles. "We welcome the opportunity to partner with Audubon to inspire environmental stewardship within urban communities," said Irv Miller, group vice president, corporate communications, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. "Toyota is committed to promoting a better understanding of ecological issues by supporting vital educational programs at the Audubon Center at Debs Park." Total cost of the Center project, including the first five years of operation as a storefront in Highland Park, is $10 million. Several generous donations helped make the Audubon Center at Debs Park a reality, including The David and Lucile Packard Foundation's $1.75 million in seed money. The State of California provided $1.5 million to support construction of the facility, and an endowment for the Center's after school programs was made possible by a $1 million gift from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. "One of my top priorities is to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. The Center gives residents direct access to nature," said Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn. "I'm so pleased that the City of Los Angeles helped to preserve another green space in the city for people to enjoy." "The combination of active inquiry, outdoor experience and stewardship taught at the Audubon Center is helping to move the east side community forward as a model of urban environmentalism," said Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes. "Other communities throughout Los Angeles, California, and the nation can gain valuable lessons from the example we're setting today." The 5,023 sq. foot Center building was created using the latest green architecture techniques, and reflects Audubon's commitment to bringing conservation home. "The last 50 years of the environmental movement have focused on reactive measures like cleaning up pollution, and trying to regulate sprawl," said Elsa Lopez, director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park. "We need to move beyond reaction. By making positive, fundamental changes at the most basic levels, we can make conservation a part of our everyday lives. The Audubon Center at Debs Park embodies this forward-thinking spirit, and will help instill long-term environmental values in the Los Angeles community." In recognition of its unique green design, Audubon is seeking a Platinum Rating - the highest possible - from the U.S. Green Building Council. If awarded the rating, the Center will be the first facility in the country to receive this distinction under the new guidelines of the Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating SystemTM. New programs to be offered at the Audubon Center include evening wildlife walks, family nature festivals, and an array of hands-on habitat restoration projects. The Children's Garden, a ¾-acre child-friendly naturescape featuring five habitat-themed activity areas, will be completed in early December. The Garden will provide pint-sized visitors with experiential learning opportunities like catching bugs, dissecting flowers, and looking at bird feathers. Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences. # # # You are subscribed to Audubon-News. To unsubscribe, send email to audubon-news-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'unsubscribe' in the Subject field. To adjust other settings (vacation, digest, etc.) please visit, http://www.freelists.org/list/audubon-news.