Los Angeles is home to unique ecosystems as well as a long tradition of public parklands and environmental conservation. In this post, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of one of the city’s most inventive ecological resources, the Audubon Center at Debs Park.
The Center first opened in 2003, designed as a conservation and environmental education center that would allow Los Angeles residents to visit and learn about local wildlife in their natural habitat.
Photo credit: Laparent.com
The Center is situated in Debs Park, the fourth largest public park in the city of Los Angeles. A rolling swath of grasslands northeast of downtown Los Angeles, most of the park’s sprawling acreage is covered in walnut-oak woodland and coastal sage scrub – the same flora that filled the Los Angeles Basin before it became a metropolis. The area has become a haven for birds, and over 140 separate species have been recorded in the park’s environs – the park’s shaded trails are filled with birdsong.
The Center at Debs Park is operated by Audubon California, a state-level field program of the National Audubon Society. Part of the Society’s mission is to engage young people, as well as to cultivate diverse audiences in the Los Angeles area. Designed to serve as a recreation and education venue, the Center is a unique community gathering spot and dynamic focal point for outdoor activity, hands-on environmental learning, and wildlife conservation.
Photo Credit: Modernhiker.com
The Center’s mission is to teach the public about the unique value of nature, inspiring visitors to understand and care for the natural world by allowing them to encounter it firsthand. Community and education programs at Debs Park are engineered to engage children and their families with the outdoor world, giving them a personal stake in safeguarding the environment by showing them how environmental concerns are relevant to their own lives.
Looking for kid-friendly sites for local excursions? Visit the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena!
The Audubon Center includes extensive displays about California’s extraordinary bird species, from the scurrying quail to the soaring condor. Visitors can see their feathered neighbors outdoors on monthly all-ages bird walks. Many of the Center’s activities are geared towards introducing visitors to surrounding Debs Park, and the Center’s crowded social calendar also includes guided hikes, community science projects, art classes, musical performances, film screenings, yoga, tai chi, and seasonal celebrations. Most programs are free of charge and open to the public. The park itself is mostly dog-friendly, with facilities for fishing and picnics.
The Center’s ecological mission extends to design – the Audubon Center was the first LEED platinum certified building in the country, and one of the very first carbon-neutral buildings constructed in the United States. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program developed to encourage architects, owners, builders, and communities to plan and construct energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly buildings. LEED is the most widely-used verification system of its kind, and it has become the “green standard” for ecological building innovation.
LEED certification is designed to work for all buildings of all shapes and sizes, from single-family homes to skyscrapers, and the rating system is intended to address many different aspects of environmentally-conscious design: water and energy savings, efficient use of space, renewable materials, and reduced emissions. The Audubon Center at Debs Park holds the highest possible rating, an accolade that reflects everything from its innovative architecture to its ecological advocacy.
A big component of LEED rating is strategic use of space – renewable materials and energy efficient technology can take you a long way, but cutting down on waste also means making sure that every building becomes a durable resource. The Center’s “platinum” certification is also based on its commitment to providing a multi-use public space to members of the community. Not content to rest on its laurels, the Center holds free public seminars on LEED certification and design, so that local home and business owners can learn how to make these improvements themselves.
Photo Credit: Modernhiker.com
The Audubon Center works hard to be kid-friendly as well as environment-friendly, and a big part of its community engagement comes from local school field trips, since Debs Park is preserved as a natural space but maintained as an accessible local parkland. There’s an extensive play and exploration area located just behind the Center buildings with plenty of activities for kids, as well as a short Butterfly Trail perfect for younger hikers. The Center leads group nature walks from the center, and visitors can ask about upcoming hikes at the information desk. If you’d like to take a family or solo hike, docents at the center offer maps and route recommendations for all ages, and the Audubon Center offers backpacks and binoculars on loan for free to park visitors!
Interested in more opportunities for hiking? Check out Eaton Canyon in South Pasadena!
Visit the Debs Park Audubon Center to learn about local wildlife, and then take a stroll around the trails outside to see California’s extraordinary native birds in their natural surroundings!
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