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National Park Service Rim of the Valley Study Released, Expanding Access for All, Health and Environmental Justice

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The National Parks Conservation Association, along with The City Project, a local elementary school Principal and a network of Los Angeles-based organizations known as the Rim of the Valley Coalition voiced their support and called for action to advance the National Park Service’s Rim of the Valley Special Resource study, released today. The study examines iconic natural resources such as Griffith Park, the Los Angeles River, Verdugo Mountains, Santa Clarita Valley and Santa Susana Mountains and important pieces of the region’s past such as El Pueblo de Los Angeles and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as potential additions to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The Rim of the Valley study analyzes Environmental Justice and health under the President’s Executive Order 12898, citing The City Project’s work, at pages 327-29.

“On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and as a lifelong Angeleno who has worked in urban neighborhoods and on efforts to connect youth and diverse communities to our treasured outdoor spaces, I proudly support the Rim of the Valley proposal,” said Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “From the Santa Susana Mountains to the heart of the city at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Rim of the Valley is an area rich in historic and cultural sites and critical wildlife corridors, waterways and landscapes worthy of national recognition as a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.”

With more than 17 million people, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area is the second most populous region of the country; yet has less open space per capita than all other large cities on the west coast. The Rim of the Valley proposal represents an opportunity to better protect and manage some of the region’s last wild lands, open spaces and historic sites, including habitat for threatened species ranging from the mountain lion to the red-legged frog, and historic sites that will allow the National Park Service to tell the story of Los Angeles’s rich and nationally-significant history.  The expanded presence of the National Park Service will also facilitate new partnerships with schools, local governments and community-based organizations to improve outreach and interpretive programs, better connect youth and families to the outdoors, and build a new generation of national park enthusiasts.

“Anytime a child has the opportunity to hike through open space or be surrounded by a region’s unique natural and cultural history, important learning occurs,” said Brad Rumple, Principal of Esperanza Elementary School. “In the past 80 years, I don’t believe that many residents of the Southland have had appropriate access to such educational experiences. Now is our opportunity to make that happen.”

National parks are also proven to be economic generators, with every dollar invested providing a $10 return to communities. Home owners also stand to benefit from the strong potential of property value from having National Park Service neighbors, as well as safety-related assets such as increased capacity for emergency and firefighting services. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s more than 150,000 acres currently exemplifies such benefits, through its network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities where existing jurisdictions and landowners retain ownership and control of their land.

“The City Project supports the Rim of the Valley as part of a diverse and growing alliance committed to health and environmental justice, and increased access to healthy green land use for underserved communities,” said Robert García, Founder Director and Counsel of The City Project. “Expanding national recreation areas would advance environmental justice, human health and local green jobs by creating recreation opportunities for park poor, income poor communities and communities of color. Diversifying access to and support for healthy green land use appeals to the diverse values at stake for all people of Southern California.”

Through initiatives like Healthy Parks, Healthy People US, Let’s Move, Find Your Park, and Every Kid in a Park, the Obama Administration, National Park Service, NPCA, The City Project, and others have emphasized building stronger connections between youth from urban and underserved communities and our national parks and outdoor recreational spaces. These efforts coincide with the National Park Service’s centennial, which will be celebrated in 2016.

“The 100th birthday of our National Park System provides a worthy and timely call to action for the National Park Service and our members of Congress to advance this opportunity and leave a tremendous conservation and environmental justice legacy for future generations of Angelos,” said Arguelles.

The public comment period for NPS’s draft Rim of the Valley Corridor Special Resources Study is open through June 30, 2015. The park service will also host a series of webinars and meetings in communities throughout the corridor to solicit community input.

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The City Project and the following diverse and growing alliance committed to health and environmental justice submitted public comments in 2013 to NPS to diversify access to and support for the expanded National Recreation AreaRobert Bracamontes, Acjachemen Nation, Juaneño Tribe; Amigos De Los Rios; Anahuak Youth Soccer Association; Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance; Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council; California Black Health Network, Inc.; California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; National Parks Conservation Association; PolicyLink; Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy; Search To Involve Pilipino Americans; Sierra Club; Social Justice Consultancy; and SPARC (Social & Public Art Resource Center).