The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) is helping by creating more urban parks with natural areas and programs to connect children with nature, and bringing city kids into natural parks by providing transportation and naturalists as guides.
A Little Park History
Imagine a city with no green space, parks or playgrounds, only sidewalks, streets, buildings, and man-made things. Where would children play?
America’s most stunning and unique wild places gained the protection of the federal government and became natural parks late in the 19th century. Natural parks are spaces left untamed, retaining indigenous flora and fauna, conserved to remain as formed by natural forces. Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon were among the earliest areas to receive Federal protection from urban development, parks we still enjoy today.
Locally, Griffith Park became Los Angeles’ first natural park in 1896, when Colonel Griffith J. Griffith donated five square miles to the City as “a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people,” said Griffith. “I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city.”iii
Throughout the 20th century, a series of natural parks were preserved and restored throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, just west of Griffith Park. They became the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area by act of U.S. Congress in 1978. The MRCA, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), the National Park Service (NPS), and California
State Parks have together conserved 153,075 acres of natural parkland.iv
The invention of the children’s playground was another aspect of the park movement, occurring around the same time that Griffith Park was donated to LA. While natural mountain parks offer numberless recreational opportunities, they can lack safe, supervised areas for young children. These parks are often in rural or suburban areas, hard to reach from the inner-city. Before there were playgrounds, urban kids played in the streets or empty lots near their homes.
In 1887, the first American playground was built in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, featuring slides, swings, and a goat cart ride. Los Angeles was the first American city to create a municipal Playground Department in 1904, “to provide wholesome and constructive play and recreation for youth, in supervised playgrounds, as an alternative to play in the city streets.”v
This was followed by
LA’s first playground, built near City Hall in 1905. As ubiquitous as neighborhood playgrounds are today, they are a relatively new concept.
Traditionally, urban playgrounds have rarely been designed to encourage nature play. Prefabricated playground equipment, designed with predetermined themes and uses don’t inspire imaginative play. Nature provides a rich landscape in which children can dream and pretend. The latest trend in playground and urban park design is to incorporate an area for nature play with trees, and things like sticks and blocks to build with. For example, the MRCA’s Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Downtown LA combines traditional recreation
Helpful Resources for Parents
Want to find ideas and activities to get your family outside and into nature? Check out these websites and books:
• Children & Nature Network: www.childrenandnature.org/
• National Wildlife Federation’s Get Outside: www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be- Out-There.as
• Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell, a favorite among outdoor education
• Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, learn about what you can do to help with nature- deficit disorder
Spring 2012 5
Being introduced to Black Sage
Flying a kite at King Gillette Ranch
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20