We hit the road last week to visit locations across California with a focus on the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. We began Wednesday with Congressman Thompson at Yolo Wildlife Refuge in Davis. The well over 50,000 acres refuge is the product of California residents who came together to form a local and Federal, public/private partnership in order to preserve a critical habitat for migrating birds and create a beautiful space for schoolchildren to learn about the wonders of wilderness. After spending the early morning in the refuge's wetlands, we held a successful listening session at University of California, Davis, affording us the opportunity to hear the ideas of a few hundred Northern Californians.
Later in the day, we headed south to my hometown of Los Angeles and held a listening session in San Gabriel with the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior Will Shafroth, and Congresswoman Chu, among others. The event, which was held at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in San Gabriel, brought together people of all ages from the community to discuss the importance of their local parks and recreational areas.
Thursday morning began near downtown Los Angeles at Vista Hermosa Park, an urban area that has been transformed into an oasis for a community to enjoy their outdoor space. It was incredible to see the work that has been done to make this park a reality. Secretary Salazar joined the group that afternoon for a youth event in Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Hundreds of young leaders from across the region were discussing the ways they value the outdoors and the challenges and opportunities they face in utilizing the parks in their area.
Our day concluded with a large listening session at Occidental College consisting of almost a thousand people from the across the Los Angeles area. We heard from Californians of all backgrounds about a wide range of issues, listened to a lot of great ideas, and were inspired by some of the work being done by the community to utilize urban spaces.
Our barnstorm across the state culminated Friday morning with a field trip in the Santa Monica mountains. “SaMo Youth,” Los Angeles youth who are working as park rangers this summer, discussed the work they are doing and suggested ideas for how to get more young people active in the outdoors. It was truly wonderful to be back in my hometown, celebrating the nature that surrounds us.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality