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The Second Ever Urban Audubon Centre Opens in Los Angeles

Sustainably Designed Building Functions Completely Off the Grid

Los Angeles, CA Thursday, November 6, 2003 - Children and families throughout East and Northeast Los Angeles were among the many who celebrated today as the much-anticipated Audubon Centre at Debs Park opened its doors in the Highland Park/Montecito Heights community. The centre will provide opportunities for residents of some of LA`s most densely populated neighbourhoods to learn about the natural world through hands-on outdoor experiences in the park`s 282 acres of urban wilderness. The Audubon Centre is a model of sustainable design, operating entirely on solar power. It is the first building in Los Angeles to fully function off both the electric and sewer grids.

The grand opening of the Audubon Centre was marked by an All Species Parade, which wound up the driveway to the centre. Nearly 100 students from local schools carried papier m?ch? masks and giant puppets of the birds and bugs of Debs Park. Mayor Jim Hahn, City Councilman Ed Reyes, National Audubon Society President John Flicker, and representatives from the dozens of area businesses joined the students and the organizations that helped bring the Audubon Center at Debs Park to life. For nearly a century Audubon`s mission has been to connect people with nature, said Audubon President John Flicker. In places like Los Angeles, it can be challenging to make that connection. The Audubon Centre at Debs Park will help urban residents bridge that gap. It is a place that will inspire a lifelong passion for conservation.

The facility at Debs Park is only the second Audubon Center in the US to be located in the heart of a city, and is a cornerstone of Audubon`s national initiative to bring conservation to a broader, more diverse audience. For too long the environmental movement has spoken to a narrow segment of the American public, said Robert Stephens, Trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Opening new eyes to nature in communities like East L.A. is both timely and inspiring. That`s why the Packard Foundation is so proud to be involved.Programs at the Audubon Centre have been geared toward the largely Latino population that lives in the neighbourhoods surrounding Debs Park, particularly the 50,000 schoolchildren and their families who live within a two-mile radius. Programs at the Centre are offered in English and Spanish, and focus on the plants and animals found right in the park to illustrate basic concepts, creating a direct and positive relationship with the local natural world. Scientific discovery is encouraged through active outdoor exploration - hiking, birding, and monitoring the park`s plants, mammals, butterflies and reptiles.

Total cost of the Centre project, including the first five years of operation as a storefront in Highland Park, is $10 million. Several generous donations helped make it a reality, including The David and Lucile Packard Foundation`s $1.75 million in seed money. The State of California provided $1.5 million to support construction of the facility, and an endowment for the Centre`s after school programs was made possible by a $1 million gift from Toyota. One of my top priorities is to improve the quality of life in our neighbourhoods. The Centre gives residents direct access to nature, said Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn. I`m so pleased that the City of Los Angeles helped to preserve another green space in the city for people to enjoy.

The combination of active inquiry, outdoor experience and stewardship taught at the Audubon Centre is helping to move the east side community forward as a model of urban environmentalism, said Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes. Other communities throughout Los Angeles, California, and the nation can gain valuable lessons from the example we`re setting today.The 5,023 sq. foot Centre building was created using the latest green architecture techniques, and reflects Audubon`s commitment to bringing conservation home. The last 50 years of the environmental movement have focused on reactive measures like cleaning up pollution, and trying to regulate sprawl, said Elsa Lopez, director of the Centre. We need to move beyond reaction. By making positive, fundamental changes at the most basic levels, we can make conservation a part of our everyday lives. The Centre embodies this forward-thinking spirit, and will help instil long-term environmental values in the Los Angeles community.In recognition of its unique green design, Audubon is seeking a Platinum Rating - the highest possible - from the US Green Building Council. If awarded the rating, the Centre will be the first facility in the country to receive this distinction under the new guidelines of the Council`s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating SystemTM.

New programs to be offered at the Centre include evening wildlife walks, family nature festivals, and an array of hands-on habitat restoration projects. The Children`s Garden, a ?-acre child-friendly naturescape featuring five habitat-themed activity areas, will be completed in early December. The Garden will provide pint-sized visitors with experiential learning opportunities like catching bugs, dissecting flowers, and looking at bird feathers.

4th July 2014