This image is from one of our Community Dialogue meetings where we worked with local leaders of community-based organizations to host small, targeted conversations with residents about the importance of green infrastructure (Learn More About this Effort).
With our LA #WatershedActive Recreation Guide, we shared how being #WatershedActive can be about enjoying recreational opportunities in the watershed. For this post and the last, we have expanded what it means to be #WatershedActive by helping individuals understand the value of open space and highlighting how empowered community stakeholders can exercise their voices and values to create healthier watersheds and communities. In our last post, Empowering #WatershedActive Communities Part 1: Ecosystem Services, we shared reasons to appreciate our natural resources. In this post, we explain more reasons to collectively opt outdoors and provide information to empower community stakeholders. Hopefully these posts will reinvigorate Angelenos and the public to adopt a new way of being #WatershedActive— by getting involved to support open space and watershed health.
We Need Nature, Nature Needs Us
According to the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation, we have 63,000 acres of parks and 1,400 miles of streams that stem from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean (1). There are 87 regional and local parks, 344 miles of hiking trails, and 19 golf courses (2). These natural resources have the potential to provide more ecosystem services to our communities; however, most of these natural spaces occur in pockets, isolated by urban development, and their ecosystem services, stifled.
Los Angeles County is in severe need of more green spaces (2). Based on a recent inventory of the need for parks in Los Angeles County, per every 1,000 people in Los Angeles County, there are only 3.3 acres of public space. This is half of the national median of 6.8 acres per 1,000 people (3). The Los Angeles Countywide Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment quantified this need in a report. The assessment found that 51% of citizens live more than half a mile away from a park (2). The imbalanced distribution of natural spaces in Los Angeles might seemingly lead to the unequal distribution of ecosystem services and benefits.
The need for open space is exacerbated by climate change. Increased temperatures in our densely populated urban centers coupled with water supply challenges threaten the health of our urban ecosystems, the magnitude of their services and the communities which lack these vital resources to mitigate climate change’s worst effects. Some of the communities with the most severe need live within highly urbanized downtown Los Angeles. Fortunately, there are opportunities to increase ecosystem benefits, for example, by creating and connecting pockets of green space with green alleys (Learn more about our green alley projects). Other strategies are to add more large trees, such as native oaks, to strengthen the urban tree canopy in existing spaces, and to leverage LA River Revitalization efforts to add additional parks and public space. Nonetheless, as our State and