[audubon-news] Urban Audubon Center Opens in East LA

  • From: "BIANCHI, John" <JBIANCHI@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <Audubon-news@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 15:47:29 -0500

Contact: Linda Vanderveer
Mobile 646/303-2888

Nicole Possert
Mobile 323/449-6998


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 

"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 

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.

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