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Welcome to Los Angeles' National Park

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Exploring Rock Pool at Malibu Creek | Photo by Zach Behrens

If you open up the National Parks System Map and Guide and look over to Los Angeles, you'll see a green area denoting a National Parks Service unit within the city and into Ventura County. "There's a National Park in Los Angeles?" Why yes, yes there is.

"This is still a big secret in Los Angeles; that there is a National Park in their backyard," Woody Smeck said in a phone interview from his Thousand Oaks office. Smeck is the National Parks Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which is run under the Department of the Interior. According to him, even though the name says National Recreation Area and not Park, don't be fooled. The same exact regulations that guide National Parks dictate the rules in for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. Even at one point, a congressman wanted to change the name to Toyon National Park, which references the dominant chaparral plant found in the area.

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The National Recreation Area, in which the border was defined by congressional legislation in the 1970s, looks like a gerrymandered city council district, running down the beach past the Santa Monica Pier, Eastward on Mulholland Drive to the 101 Freeway and dipping down into Runyon Canyon, Wilacre Park and Franklin Canyon. The majority of the area covers a large swath of land starting between the westside and the West Valley heading toward the Pacific Ocean ending in the Point Mugu area in Ventura County.