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Nearly 100 People Fill Public Meeting On Nature Center Master Plan

Participants discuss changes some say are needed, including replacing some non-native trees and plants with native varieties

Nature Ctr 1

(February 9, 2002) -- Nearly 100 area residents attended a City Hall sponsored, daylong public meeting to discuss conditions at the El Dorado Park Nature Center in the process of preparing a "master plan" for the wildlife sanctuary's future.

Nature Ctr 2Nature Center staff indicates some changes are under consideration to help ensure the area's future ability to sustain wildlife, including replacement of dying and non-native trees with native varieties.

Consultant YeoThe master plan is being prepared by a City Hall hired consultant, Ron Yeo (right) of Ron Yeo and Associates.

Today's event was open to members of the public who phoned in advance to reserve spots. More than 100 did, exceeding capacity, causing the Nature Center to schedule a second, abbreviated meeting (without the guided tour) for February 21 to brief additional interested members of the public (details on how to attend, below).

Nature Ctr 1Today's event included a guided walk through the Nature Center conducted by the consultant's staff. Participants stopped at various locations to hear the consultant's staffers explain problematic areas and discuss issues on which public input was invited.

Following the guided walk, participants went into small break-out sessions in which they shared future visions for the Nature Center.

Blackburn & CarrollWith participants out on the trail by midmorning, tagged along with Nature Center Director, Mary Blackburn and 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll:

Ms. Blackburn: I think what the consultants came in and said to us was, this is an incredible site. There are wonderful things to build on, but in order for it to survive for ten years, you're going to have to do some major kinds of changes. You're going to have to pull out the things that are dying and replace them with things that belong here. You mean native plants?

Ms. Blackburn: Yes. Some of these aren't native plants?

Ms. Blackburn: Oh yes, most of them aren't. That's a eucalyptus tree, that's not a native plant?

Ms. Blackburn: Nope.

Councilman Carroll: And the difference there is I understand it is, to sustain a non native plant, you've got to water it.

Councilman Carroll, whose 4th district now includes the Nature Center (following a redistricting battle last year with 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell) described the issue now facing the Nature Center succinctly:

"One natural cycle, I think is coming to its conclusion, and the question is, what's the nature of the next natural cycle."

Nature Ctr 6Councilwoman Kell (not pictured) also attended today's event, as did her office aide (tallest fellow in picture, center), Tim Patton.

Cantrell & SchaeferAlso present were LB park protection advocates Ann Cantrell and Billie Schaefer.

Diana MannAnd we spotted ECO-link chair (and 3d district Council candidate) Diana Mann (smiling at us, center of picture).

Also present (but not pictured) were LB Recreation Commissioner Bea Antenore and Wrigley area activist and Friends of the L.A. River boardmember Joan Greenwood.

Nature Ctr 1At right, Nature Center staffer (and tireless El Dorado Park area activist) Grace Earl (in green top) with participant Gloria Moreno.

A City Hall press release said today's meeting would "begin the process of creating a new vision for the El Dorado Nature Center through the development of a master plan...The new master plan is an effort to ensure the health and quality of programs and habitats at the Center."

Nature Ctr. 7The master plan will prepared by the consultant and isn't legally binding on current or future administrations. However, it's expected that it will as a practical matter lay the groundwork for the Nature Center's immediate future and the fate of sick, dying or non-native trees and plants, as well as an apparently clogging stream.

Implicit in the master plan process is the view that the Nature Center's condition could worsen unless steps are taken to remedy the situation.

Whether City Hall should remove current trees and plants and replace them with other varieties (including native species) or otherwise change the wilderness sanctuary's status quo was among the issues discussed.

EucalyptusMs. Blackburn pointed out a non-native eucalyptus tree (pictured right) for, noting that "if we pull the eucalyptus out, we want to make sure that we put in other plants, maybe riparian plants like sycamores or cottonwoods or alders that will offer that same benefit [for wildlife] as being a nesting spot and also offer feed and food for other birds that perhaps the eucalyptus doesn't."

After seeing conditions on the walking tour, veteran park protection advocate Ann Cantrell appeared warily supportive of the process, but had some reservations about particulars:

"There's a lot of good suggestions. They haven't really let us know how they're going to accomplish these things, and I heard a lot of people saying they didn't want the healthy, non native [trees] torn out, stripping the nature center," she said.

We asked Ms. Cantrell what she thought should be done about non-native trees like the eucalyptus. She replied, "I think that as the non-native trees die, they should be replaced with native trees, but I don't see taking them out just because they're non-native."

Nature Ctr 8The Nature Center is viewed by many with near reverence, a natural wonder surviving in the midst of urban encroachments.

No final decisions were made at today's meeting. Instead, public input was solicited and some of the public's suggestions may wind up in the master plan. Consultant Ron Yeo and Associates will write the master plan which City Hall can then implement.

A second, abbreviated meeting will be held at the Nature Center on February 21 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. (without a walking tour) for those unable to attend today's daylong event.

Nature Center Director Blackburn indicated the Feb. 21 meeting would include a briefing on the Nature Center's master plan issues and "people will still have a chance to share their vision, they just won't have a chance to walk the trail."

To attend the February 21 event, call the Nature Center office at (562) 570-1745 and make a reservation. If the answering machine picks up, leave a message indicating your interest in attending.

Nature Ctr ducksThese two experts on the Nature Center attended today's event but did not testify.

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