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Transit to Trails for Anahuak Youth

On April 27, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne joined 50 L.A. youngsters for a hike in the woods to celebrate National Junior Ranger Day in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. He took part in a pilot program that started on a bright Saturday morning in late March, when over 200 children and their families and friends from Anahuak Youth Association in Northeast Los Angeles rode buses and vans to go hiking with park rangers in Franklin Canyon. This was the first time many of these working class Latino families have ever been to the mountains. They enjoyed ranger programs about land, water, and wildlife. Families could choose between a flat one-mile walk along the creekbed, or the more challenging 2 1/2 mile hike to the lookout peak. Nobody chose the short hike! Folks hiked through the chaparral, spotted lizards, ducks, and red-tailed hawks, and enjoyed a panoramic view of Southern California.

The trip was the first of many mountain, beach, and Los Angeles River trips planned for coming months made possible by a creative partnership between Joe Edmiston and his staff from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains and Recreation Conservation Authority, Anahuak, The City Project–and an anonymous donor. The Transit to Trails project will take youth and families for hikes in natural areas, and enrich their education about nature, cultural histories, physical activity and healthy eating. The program will help develop the next generation of environmental stewards. Most importantly, the children will have fun.

Fully 78% of all parkland in L.A. County is in the Angeles National Forest, which lies within an hour of most of L.A., but few people of color go there. Only 17% of the visitors to the Angeles are Latinos, and only 1% are African- American. Agencies and enclaves in greener areas have not always made people of color feel welcome. Transit to Trails is a best practice example to diversify access to and support for parks, forests, mountains, beaches, and natural green space.