play / 2014

WildLAParks

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Audubon California

Amazing #birds are here if you look - we can't wait to show you the warblers, thrashers & swifts that visit our @wildlaparks


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Teens from across Los Angeles will teach us how birds connect us to wild nature in Los Angeles city parks.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Audubon will bring young people from across the city together with their broader communities to highlight the connection between people and the wild nature that exists in Los Angeles city parks. These youth will show that our parks play a much more important role in the health of our communities that we could have imagined. This will be accomplished by identifying the birds in our city parks and sharing this knowledge with the public– using video, social media, community programming, and good old-fashioned word of mouth. WildLAparks will create new park stewards, committed to sharing, protecting, and enjoying the wildlife of Los Angeles’ city parks.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Our project will take a three part approach to making LA the best place for people to play and birds to thrive in 2050.

First, we will continue our work at five nature locations around Los Angeles, at Debs Park, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Kenneth Hahn Park, Los Angeles River, and Harbor Park. Our work at these locations focuses on engaging teens through three popular and effective programs: The Arroyo Green Team (Debs), Audubon Youth Environmental Stewards (Harbor Park and LA River), and the Environmental Stewardship Program (Baldwin Hills). At these locations, teens monitor wildlife populations, restore native habitats, and create fun nature activities that educate and enlighten park visitors and younger people from their communities. These young environmentalists will be essential to the second step of this project.

Second, taking what we have learned from the network programs, we will engage people of all ages at neighborhood parks and other open spaces to observe the birds in their area and to celebrate their local parks as places to explore, play and gain an appreciation of nature. We will work with a GIS (Geographic Information System) specialist, to train our youth to identify and map park space that meet a series of social and natural criteria (developed by the youth). Through this process, we will identify new potential partners, in the form of recreation centers or social service NGOs who work near these parks. Our teens and our chapter members will inventory the parks using Audubon’s Citizen Science approach and new technologies. Here is an opportunity for the varied skill sets of the young and older people to share their knowledge - teens may teach older chapter members about technology, while chapter members help teach the teens bird identification skills. There are many exciting new apps that can be used for bird identification and recording information. Using social media is a fun and easy way for the program participants and the public to communicate the natural wonders found in our city parks.

Finally, we’ll work with new partners to host events in these parks. Events may consist of bird watching walks, conducted in English and Spanish, arts and cultural activities, health and passive recreation connections, and environmental action projects. Our hope is to help people understand that our parks and our birds are our connection to health and well-being in our communities and that finding birds is a great way to play in L.A.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

Audubon youth will help people gain a better understanding and appreciation of nature in their urban parks, the value of native plants, water conservation, wildlife and habitat preservation. We will connect people of all ages to the great outdoors in recreational activities and fun restoration/conservation events and show that nature in LA thrives!

We will take what we have learned to create a guide for shaping Bird-friendly Parks. Greater bird diversity is better for the parks and better for the people that live there. The Guide to Bird Friendly Parks will help communities advocate for new parks and to make their existing parks sanctuaries for people and birds. Being in nature has health and developmental benefits that have been shown and summarized in works such as Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. In many cases, our parks may be one of our only outlets to the natural world, and urban youth in particular may suffer from what has been called “nature-deficit disorder,” with no backyards or areas to play in. Parks, green space, and open space are vital to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes, help children develop motor skills and contribute to civic engagement.

We envision, in 2050, youth participating in this project holding the reins of city and regional government, fully convinced of the importance of nature to young people, of the joy of finding birds in their parks, and committed to prioritizing efforts to ensure that every person in Los Angeles has access to nature nearby to play in, discover, grow, feel safe.

Whom will your project benefit?

This project has a few target audiences. First the project will benefit teens that are involved in our after-school programs. These programs provide a pathway to higher educational and career opportunities for under-served youth. The Audubon Center at Debs Park program serves youth primarily from northeast Los Angeles communities. Students are predominantly Latino, ages 12-18. Audubon YES participants consist of both middle and high school students from throughout the South Bay. High School student interns in Los Angeles Audubon’s Greenhouse & Environmental Stewardship Program are from Dorsey High whose student body identifies as 57% African-American and 42% Hispanic. All of these programs serve economically disadvantaged youth. Nearly all the graduates from these programs go on to four-year colleges, and many are the first in their families to do so.

The project will also benefit our older chapter membership. They will lend their organizational and life skills, working with youth from our programs to help create the report that identifies targeted parks. We believe that this type of inter-generational learning will benefit all participants.

People residing near these parks will benefit from learning new skills (bird identification, water-wise native plant species) and seeing their parks as both a recreational place and a wildlife habitat. Increased activity at parks will help remove real and perceived barriers to participation, for example, is the park safe? With more planned activities, parks can be a beacon for families to gather and to enjoy and learn about nature.

Finally, the birds of LA will benefit from more public conservation awareness that will lead to community action to improve our parks.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We have confirmed collaboration with the Los Angeles Audubon Society and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society and partnerships with San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, and Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society. These separate Audubon chapters have worked together in sharing research and have been working for the past year to bring youth from their environmental education programs together to build support networks, advocate for conservation, and share ideas. All of these entities are their own non-profit organizations, operating independently, but with similar goals and missions.

The Chapters bring skills and expertise in bird identification and environmental science. Each of the chapters take a community based approach to conservation and youth engagement. For example, Los Angeles Audubon through its partnership with California State Parks, and The Baldwin Hills Conservancy will provide access to people of all ages to learn more about the parks at student-led environmental restoration events, and bird walks that provide insight to the unique ecology, geology, wildlife, and plantlife found in these urban oases. The project hopes to identify new collaborators where we can add value to their work and they can provide skills and expertise to enhance the project.

Audubon has been working in Los Angeles since 1910, advocating for birds and nature, and providing opportunities for people to connect with nature. In the City of Los Angeles, four, independent, local chapters – Los Angeles Audubon, Palos Verdes / South Bay Audubon, San Fernando Audubon, and Santa Monica Bay Audubon- work with local schools, advocate for nature, and engage all ages with birds, wildlife and LA’s natural places. Additionally, the Audubon Center at Debs Park, operated by Audubon California, takes on these roles in the neighborhoods in northeast Los Angeles. Working together, we have the entire city covered.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

• Safe parks = safe neighborhoods – our experience has shown that increased programming in parks leads to re-invigorated community spaces. These outcomes have ripple effects in the communities and lead to overall well-being. • Creating future advocates for parks – We want to make sure that people who live in our communities care about parks and will make their voices heard about the need for parks in many of LA’s densest neighborhoods. • Helping to re-vitalize parks with new uses – There are many ways to play, from organized sports to organized bird watching events. We hope to share these diverse activities so that parks provide people with a nature experience in LA. • Focus on inter-generational experiences will help provide all participants with a wealth of information and diverse points of view. • Bird watching is play and can be done anywhere. For real…we’ve seen falcons hunting in the midst of Downtown LA!

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

1000 Angelenos engaged and committed to help parks and birds through direct programming at our sites and around LA. We hope to connect to 100,000 though additional reach of social media.

15 student-led birding trips, hiking, or planting days in 10 city parks, green spaces, and open spaces. These types of events will bring together community members in their nearby public spaces to experience and appreciate them, in perhaps, new ways.

Create Bird-Friendly Park Guide, distribute through social media and online to policy makers and community members. This will help guide future park creation and perhaps the way parks are currently managed.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The Audubon network in Los Angeles, embodied by the Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles Audubon, and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon have found that (1) people in Los Angeles love the outdoors and love their parks and that (2) parks are even more of a contributor to a great quality of life when we realize and see all of the other creatures who love our parks as much as we do.

In order to make conservation of our natural resources relevant to everybody, we need to find areas where our goals align with the needs of the community. For instance, we want to get more people using parks and appreciating the birds there, so we may do programs that engage whole families in learning and playing that focuses on birds, but the hook for the families is doing something together. The hook for youth is having fun exploring nature and the opportunity to lead through mentoring other students and their communities, and to share their knowledge of a little piece of the wild that’s hidden away in our city.

When Audubon began working in Debs Park the first thing people said was, “What’s an Audubon”, or “¿Qué es un Audubon?” The second question was “Where’s Debs Park”. Even from those living in the view of the park, it was an unknown entity. For the communities that surround Debs Park, which are characterized by low-incomes and high densities, this fourth largest park in the City of LA should have been a jewel for the community, but it wasn’t. We partnered with many community based organizations, schools, and met trusted community activists. We created programs that were accessible and inviting, that families could do together and focused on the benefits to playing in a park like ours. Perhaps the most rewarding thing we see these days are families streaming into the park, on late summer afternoons to take a hike together, spending time in nature.

When Los Angeles Audubon launched its environmental youth program at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park in 2008, the park was the newest urban State Park in a park-poor area. Now, LA Audubon environmental students are leading the way to engage the community in fun activities, bird walks, and native plant restoration within the 58 acre park. More habitat restoration work lies ahead, but the park is now heavily utilized by the community and people of all ages.

We believe that our proposal is just the beginning of providing similar experiences for people throughout LA.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

This is project can be implemented quickly because all of the organizations involved have experience doing similar projects, and have the infrastructure in place to get started right away. The Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles Audubon, and Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon already have teen groups in place that are doing conservation projects and nature programs in their communities. Each organization already has professional staff guiding the work of these youth groups, as well as the organizational infrastructure in place to operate these programs (insurance, human resources, legal advice, etc.). The Audubon Center at Debs Park and the Audubon chapters all have established bird monitoring protocols to employ, and larger communications and program support that will help the teens amplify their work to larger audiences.

Here is a rough timeline of the project:

Month 1-3 Host gathering of youth to identify targeted parks, discuss issues and devise plans Reach out to additional community based organizations Conduct fall inventory of identified parks with chapter members and Audubon Youth Work in restoration and volunteer activities in focus urban parks

Months 4-8 Develop outreach strategies for communities around targeted parks Conduct spring inventory of targeted parks with chapter members and Audubon Youth (Bird LA Day). As they do so, they document their visits to the park using video and social media. Host events at targeted parks

Months 9-12 Synthesize data related to bird populations Develop and distribute report Guide to Bird-Friendly Parks Host culminating event and share at Audubon Film Fridays at Debs Park

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Although the teens involved with the Center and chapter groups have experience working in the outdoors and creating conservation projects, identifying and cataloging birds in the field takes additional expertise. Identifying plant habitat also requires a level of experience that these teens are not likely to have. This is why we’re including Audubon chapters (including those based in Los Angeles that do not have teen groups) in this project, so that they can not only provide direct assistance to the teens in the field, but also share their knowledge of local birds and habitat as well. We are also excited about the richness that this project will develop by connecting young people with older chapter members, creating some generational continuity.

The teens involved with these programs have experience learning and devising their own conservation projects, but they don’t have the resources to create events and linkages to schools on their own. This is where the Center and chapters will really help them. These organizations have pre-existing relationships with schools, and access to resources such as staff, transportation, insurance, purchasing, etc., that will make it easier to create these events and projects in the field.

LA’s geography is always challenging. By working with regional partners we will be able to reach across the city and county.

Outreach with new audiences can be challenging. By partnering with trusted community institutions, we will break those barriers.

What resources does your project need?

  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach