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Second Century Commission Releases Report, Features Santa Monica Mountains

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Santa Monica and other cities as seen from the Santa Monica Mountains | Photo by Ian Shive via the 2nd Century Report


Santa Monica and other cities as seen from the Santa Monica Mountains | Photo by Ian Shive via the 2nd Century Report
In 2016, the National Park System will enter its second century. With that, come a new set of problems--population, development, global warming--that did not exist when the series of public lands were dedicated nearly 100 years ago.The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association last year brought together 30 leaders from various fields to form the Second Century Commission. They set out to develop a twenty-first century vision for the National Park Service, which was released today, as excitement builds for the premier of Ken Burns' 12-hour film about the parks (LAist interviewed Burns last Spring about the project).

“National parks are no longer just far away places where people go to visit,” Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, said today, welcoming the report. “We now have nearly 400 national parks, many of them in or near cities." One of those parks splits Los Angeles in half, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where commissioners met and also featured in the report (below).

Tonight, the National Park Service and partners are hosting a public meeting about their intended new headquarters in Calabasas tonight. Another meeting will be held on Saturday.

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An archipelago of open space in the midst of 17 million people, Santa Monica stretches 43 miles from the beach at Point Mugu in Ventura County, to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A sliver of the park even extends along the Pacific Ocean past the Santa Monica Pier. Park lands include old movie locations on Paramount Ranch and canyons so remote they shelter families of mountain lions. “When the park was first proposed, the principal justification for its creation was to protect the airshed of Los Angeles,” said commission co-chair Bennett Johnston. “Only a ‘little recreation’ was anticipated. Last year, however, there were 35 million visits to the park!” The park operates through a collaboration with California State Parks and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and offers an energetic array of educational offerings. The goal is to engage all kinds of communities in the area, especially those traditionally underserved by parks.

Eight of ten children in Los Angeles schools were born in another country or have immigrant parents. A program called EcoHelpers welcomes city youngsters not just as visitors, but as active stewards of the land. Commissioners saw EcoHelper kids, with encouragement from parents and brothers and sisters who had also come to the park, planting trees along eroded stream banks. “This opens doors,” a fifth-grade teacher said. “Kids are thinking about careers in biology, even about becoming park rangers, who they now look on as rock stars.”

Related: LAist featured photographer Ian Shive (photography above) last month.