This Saturday CSP Los Angeles Sector was pleased to celebrate the grand opening of our newest park, the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (BHSO.) Beginning the day with a musical welcome from the Dorsey High School Choir we shared the accomplishment and beautiful day with community members, elected officials, and partners, Los Angeles Audubon and the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, who helped make the park vision a reality. Ron Schafer, Angeles District Superintendent and Master of Ceremonies, emphasized that the preservation of these 50 acres in urban Los Angeles, supported by community advocates such as the Friends of Baldwin Hills is no less an accomplishment than the preservation and opening of the first modern State Park, Big Basin Redwoods, by the Sempervirens Club in 1904.
In fact, the opening of BHSO marks the culmination of California State Parks Urban Parks Initiative in Los Angeles, following the opening of Los Angeles State Historic Park in 2006, and Rio de Los Angeles State Park in 2007. Through the acquisition of land and development of these new parks, CSP has established a solid presence in the city’s most densley populated areas and demonstrated its commitment to preserving available open space in park-poor urban neighborhoods. Director Ruth Coleman was on hand to thank park supporters, young volunteers, and staff as well as accept commendations from the County of Los Angeles and Culver City.
We had a great turnout of local residents, many commenting that they lived within walking distance and had come to the event on foot. Much to our delight, parking was not an issue. Visitors enjoyed views from the overlook, exhibits in the new visitor center, nature walks, and bird watching. Music provided by the Culver City High School Jazz Combo and healthy food served up by Urban Green Cuisine rounded out what proved to be a pleasant and relaxing celebration.
The day’s true success, however, must be credited to the scores of hard working students who volunteered their Saturday to assist with native plant restoration, help rangers manage parking, and provide entertainment for the crowd. The Crenshaw High Eco-Club was out in force as was LA Audubon’s contingent of young volunteers. Also present a volunteer group coordinated by local mothers from Jack and Jill, an African-American service organization with a 70 plus year history.
The legacy of the Urban Park’s Initiative will be dependent upon the continued nurturing of a conservation ethic among young park visitors and volunteers. And ultimately, this enthusiastic service and demonstration of stewardship must be counted as State Parks’ greatest success. Moving forward, the provision of high quality environmental education and interpretive programs will be a major focus of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It turns out that opening a park is the easy part – as Sector Superintendent Sean Woods, says, “Now the work begins.” Fortunately, it is the work to which we at California State Parks all look forward.