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Council for Watershed Health celebrates its 20th Anniversary in a “Living Laboratory”

On Saturday September 17, 2016 CWH will celebrate its 20th anniversary in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s Nature Gardens. The Nature Gardens are a 3.5-acre urban ecological laboratory designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA) that serve as an outdoor extension of the exhibits, research, and educational programming of the Natural History Museum. MLA collaborated with Museum staff and sub consultants to convert a surface parking lot into a flourishing wildlife habitat and educational amenity that attracts more than 100 species and a half a million visitors annually.

The Nature Gardens fill a unique niche in the Los Angeles region. With over 18 million people residing in an area of approximately 5,000 square miles, Los Angeles is not easily recognized as a “biodiversity hotspot” but, in fact, L.A. is located within one of Conservation International’s 34 Global “Biodiversity Hotspots”. Due to urbanization, there are an increasing number of endemic species at risk and a disconnection between humans and nature. The design of the Nature Gardens capitalizes on this unique urban context by merging design, science, education and enjoyment to foster biodiversity and nature experiences in the heart of Exposition Park—an area that includes low-income communities, freeways, and the University of Southern California. The Nature Gardens put an interactive and contextually responsive public face on the Museum, and create an “indoor outdoor experience” that more fully engages visitors with the exhibits inside through connections to the themed garden zones outside. After the Gardens’ completion in 2013, Mia Lehrer reflected on the project by saying, “This is a new kind of garden space, an urban ecological laboratory where people can learn and have a better understanding of nature within the city. Nature is not just in our national parks, it is all around us. A better understanding of urban nature will foster an appreciation and stewardship of our natural world in the areas that we inhabit most.”

Dorothy Green founded CWH, and her call to action forever changed the way California’s water agencies interact with each other and with the communities they serve. Since that time, CWH has been actively working with strategic partners to preserve, restore and enhance the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds. Through science-based research, education and inclusive stakeholder engagement CWH’s work has connected people to water and their environment. CWH is thrilled to be celebrating 20 years of advancing the health and sustainability of the region’s watersheds, rivers, streams and habitat in a space that inspires interest and responsibility to maintain Southern California landscapes, conserve water, protect open space, and improve urban diversity.

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