Letter-writing to create a healthy, sustainable LA at our Environmental Advocacy Workshops!

On Tuesday, June 18th we hosted our 4th Environmental Advocacy Workshop in partnership with L.A. Works here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. The theme for the evening’s discussion was building sustainable cities, and how we can hold elected officials accountable throughout the process of sustainable development by sending handwritten letters. After a quick introduction by L.A. Works and the Audubon Center, Dominique Hargreaves, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer with the Mayor of LA, presented an overview of the City’s Green New Deal and their ambitious priorities in regards to creating a more green and sustainable Los Angeles, as in line with the international Paris Agreement 

Participants had the opportunity to ask questions relevant to them and their neighborhoods and were provided with further resources to explore the City Green New Deal further. The floor was then turned over to Alfredo Gonzalez, Program Officer at Resources Legacy Fund, who guided the group through the evening’s “action item,” which was handwritten letter writing. Alfredo began his portion by providing a brief overview of government structures and who to contact with different concerns, before transitioning the letter writing activity. Alfredo highlighted the importance of building personal relationships with elected officials and pointed towards handwritten letter writing as one of the most impactful ways that an individual can use their voice to advocate on different issues. Former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, now Executive Director at TreePeople, had come out to attend the workshop and was able to vouch for the importance of building these personal relationships as well.  

Attendees then divided into two groups for the letter writing activity:  people that lived in the City of LA and those that lived outside of the City. Alfredo and Dominique worked with the City of LA group to write letters to Councilwoman Nury Martinez, chair of the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee, regarding a motion to reduce the impact of carbon emissions resulting from the purchasing of common building materials. Cindy worked with the group of people who didn’t live in the City of LA to advocate for the passing of the bill currently in the Senate and Assembly that would phase out single-use plastics state-wide. Audubon Center at Debs Park provided participants with envelopes and stamps to ensure that the over twenty handwritten letters would be mailed to elected officials. Community members were really engaged and eager to ask questions.  Many appreciated the opportunity to work closely with our knowledgeable speakers.  

We can’t wait for next month’s event where we will be discussing further environmental policy issues and how to be an advocate through community organizing and engagement. Join us and RSVP today via the LA Works website! 

Let's Go Birding Together at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!

Let's Go Birding Together!

On Saturday, June 15th, the Audubon Center at Debs Park was proud to celebrate Pride Month the best way we know how - a good, old bird walk!  Fifteen community members of all backgrounds, identities, and experience levels joined us for our 2nd annual Let's Go Birding Together Pride Bird Walk led by John Rowden, Director of Community Conservation for National Audubon Society.  We started the day with some coffee and pan dulce as the birders gathered around our Center's courtyard.  As birders settled into the Center, we got the chance to see some Anna's Hummingbirds at our bird feeders and even got a chance to get an up close and personal look at an Anna's Hummingbird nest with one egg!  

Birders hiked up to Peanut Lake from the Center. Along the way, we encountered ravens, Coopers hawk, Red-tailed hawk, California towhee, Spotted towhee, Bewick's wren, Lesser goldfinch, Black phoebes, and even a Northern rough-winged swallow!  Once at the lake, we saw some mallards, Mourning doves, and House finches. 

The Audubon Center at Debs Park is proud to continue supporting the LGBT+ community and allies through our Let's Go Birding Together Pride Bird Walks.  Let's Go Birding Together was started by Jason Sauver, Community Education Director at Spring Creek Prarie Audubon Center in Denton, Nebraska.  These walks were created as a safe and inclusive event for everyone and anyone who wanted to learn more abotu birds and the outdoors. 

We welcome anyone who identifies as LGBT, allies, family, community, and animal lover for our Let's Go Birding Together and  monthly bird walks held here at the Center on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of each month - as John said, "If you're looking at a bird through binoculars, you're a birder!," so don't be shy about your experience or knowledge with birding.  Join us next time on July 13th from 8:30am to 10:30am and let's go birding together!  To RSVP, email

Lights, Camera, WALL-E at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park

School's out and the weather is finally warming up.  Summer's here and so is the Audubon Center at Debs Park's Summer Movie Nights!  This year, we are partnering with California State Parks and LA River Parks Partners to host movies at parks along the Los Angeles River.  This month, we started off with Disney-Pixar's WALL-E!  During our Summer Movie Series, we invite you and your family to come watch a family-friendly movie at the Center under the stars!  We pop some popcorn make some sno-cones for a community event with something fun for everyone.

This Friday, June 7th, we premiered our 2019 Summer Movie Nights at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park.  California State Park rangers roasted marshmellows and made s'mores over a campfire as the sun went down.  Families laid blankets on the lawn of the Rio de Los Angeles and rented binoculars for some quick sunset birding in the park's native habitat.  Right before the movie started, Debs Park staff popped some popcorn for the ultimate outdoor movie-going experience!  Watching WALL-E under the stars was fun for everyone!  Kids and adults of all ages were tuned into the story of a little robot trying to save a baby plant and planet Earth.  

We are so excited to continue our partnership with California State Park and the LA River State Parks Partners!  Stay tuned for our next movie night pick and don't forget to join us on the first Friday of each month this summer!  Have any ideas for our next movie?  Let us know by emailing!

Plant of the Month, June 2019 - California Wild Grape

If you have ever visited our Center during the winter months, you might be confused why there are branches weaved around our courtyards’ pillars, but if you visit the Center during our spring and summer months you’ll see that they are more than branches but our native California Wild Grape, vitis californica. California Wild Grape is a deciduous plant that sheds all of its’ leaves during the cold winter months, but during spring time, they all come back! It is a vine, a natural crawler that weaves itself in fences, creeps up pillars, and provides a dash of bright green wherever it goes. This is a low maintenance plant that is easy to grow and can handle no irrigation very well (in fact we never water them in our Center), but as the name suggests, it is a pretty wild plant so at times it might need direction with some pruning or redirecting the vines. Lastly, they do provide edible grapes although they are not as sweet, so let’s leave them to the birds to enjoy this treat. 

Bird of the Month, June 2019 - Anna's Hummingbird

Now that our weather is getting a little sunnier and warmer, some of our birds are dressing up and preparing to dance. Yes, that’s right, spring and summer means it’s party time and males will put on a flashy outfit to impress the ladies and get their groove on. Hummingbirds I would argue are the flashiest at our Center with their iridescent feathers, especially our male Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte Anna. While it is considered the most common hummingbird in our park and most of Los Angeles, it is not over-rated and such a treat to see. Males get bright red/hot pink feathers all over their head that shine with the light of the sun. In order to catch a glimpse of the colors sometimes we have to be patient and wait for the right movement. The crazy keratin micro structure of hummingbird feathers act as prisms that twist, turn, and reflect light, providing these fascinating colors. In the hummingbird world, apparently that is not enough for a female to choose a male, so our male Anna’s hummingbird then choreographs a dance to attract a mate called a display. If the female likes it, then maybe she will have and take care of his young, usually only two at a time.

Volunteer Spotlight - Merrill Koss

If you've been to the Center in the past couple of years, chances are you've seen Merrill Koss working on a variety of projects in and around the Audubon Center at Debs Park.  Whether its painting, carpentry work, weed-whacking, repairing stuff around the Center or anything in between, you'll always catch Merrill doing it with a smile!  In addition to being a resourceful handyman, nature-lover, veteran, and an all-around great guy, Merrill plays a vital role in ensuring that the Center is able to function at its highest capacity.  
 Merrill loves the outdoors and hiking.  He got started volunteering for TreePeople before coming to work here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.  You'll often see him around the Center a couple of days a week or at our pocket parks along the LA River, helping to enhance the existing habitat for native birds.  Merrill's positive energy is contageous, his kindness shines through everything that he does, and his dedication to the Center, its staff, and volunteerism is inspiring.
We are so grateful for everything Merrill has done for the Center!  We couldn't do it without you Merrill, and we can't say thank you enough!

Arroyo Arts Collective presents SHELTER at the Audubon Center at Debs Park!

If you've been to the Audubon Center at Debs Park this past month, you might've noticed some strange things along your hike.  Maybe you bumped into plastic human forms under the Pepper Tree, or had a swing on the upcycled swing at the end of the Flores Trail.  In partnership with the Arroyo Arts Collective, the Audubon Center at Debs Park has been hosting SHELTER.  

SHELTER is a visual exhibition of site-specific, temporary installations located throughout the 17 acres of Audubon Center parkland. The overall theme of this project is habitat, with an emphasis on local Flora and Fauna found in Debs Park. Artists address such issues in their installations as ecological concerns which can impact the ongoing health and safety of our natural landscape; biology; and the migratory patterns in our Northeast LA neighborhoods. Work is displayed mainly along the Butterfly Loop, the Children’s Garden and other spaces about the Facility.

As part of SHELTER, several of the selected artists have held artist talks and workshops to educate community members about their own art and process.  Julie Williams held a comic book making workshop for community youth.  Kids were invited to come up with a story based on one of her original pieces, Burrow Town. Kate Lain did an Intro to Cyanotypes workshop and gave community members the opportunity to create sun prints!  All events were free and open to the public.

We've been excited to host SHELTER and get community members to experience the awesome public art from local artists.  Check out some of the cool moments from SHELTER!

Habitat Enhancement at Rattlesnake Park - 5/18/2019

Seven community volunteers worked on weeding and mulching Rattlesnake Park as part of the Audubon Center at Debs Park's Habitat Enhancement Service Days along the LA River.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and volunteers were greeted by a Singing barn owl. 

Volunteers spent the majority of the time weeding, which involved removing dry, non-native grasses from out under the lush Sycamore canopy which characterizes Rattlesnake Park.  Thankfully, the week's rain loosened and moistened the soil, which facilitated the removal of weeds - volunteers barely needed tools!  Aftre the weeds were removed, we worked together to cover 5 cubic yards of fine mulch, creating a 4 inch layer to retain moisture, provide nutrients, and control weeds.  Much of this maintenance protects the natives we planted in the Spring from being taken over by weeds and creates a healthy environment for future plants to continue growing. Some plants, for example, Arroyo Seco Lupine have already finished blooming, currently they have gone to seed - this means that the plant has been pollinated and its seeds are ready to go out into the world! 

During this event, we were also joined by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA).  Carlos, an MRCA operations crewmember painted over new graffitti which had been placed in the park.  This paint job left the park looking brand new and fresh!  

There's always more work to do at all the pocket parks along the LA River "Next steps for Rattlesnake include spreading annual wildflower seeds under the Sycamore canopy during the winter," says Conservation Program Coordinator, Cindy Castaneda.  Let's hope that Arroyo Seco Lupine doesn't disappoint!  

We hope to see volunteers out at Rattlesnake for our next event on Saturday, June 15th from 9am - 12pm!  Don't forget to RSVP by emailing Mika at

Volunteer Spotlight, May 2019: Gerardo Rivera


Gerardo Garcia is a geology student at Pasadena City College and lives just down the street from the Center. He reached out to us last December with the idea of leading geology walks here at Debs Park. He views the Center as a cultural oasis removed from the hustle and bustle of the city and wanted to get more involved, while also applying what he’s learning in school to the real world. He is passionate about geology and is fascinated by how the Earth works: how it was formed, what it's made out of, and what this can tell us about the world we inhabit today. Gerardo especially likes how Debs Park provides a glimpse into how Northeast LA might have looked millions of years ago, and how you can clearly see the evidence of sea level rise and fall when exploring geological features throughout the park.  

Gerardo is now leading Rock Walks here at the park on the 4th Saturday of every month! This month’s walk will be taking place on Saturday, May 25th from 9:30-10:30am. We are super excited to be offering this unique programming and to incorporate geology further into our conversations surrounding birds, plants, conservation, and community engagement. We owe it all to Gerardo and his commitment to supporting the Center and providing this experience for the community. Thank you Gerardo! Check out the website he created for more info. 

Plant of the Month, May 2019: Purple Sage

Purple Sage

Salvia leucophylla

Purple sage, salvia leucophylla, is in full bloom here at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. This plant is in the mint family of Lamiaceae, yes the same family as spearmint. It is an aromatic plant, we encourage you to rub the leaves and smell. That smell attracts insects, specifically beetles. Why? For the role of pollination of course. This is one of California’s native plants, and you can tell right away! The lightness of the plant, or silvery undertone, allows them to remain cool during California hot days since it absorbs less heat, but there is something cooler. These leaves’ silvery undertones are also composed of crenulated leaves, where the leaves are fuzzy and feel like felt. Our favorite part of this plant however, is definitely there beautiful flowering stalks that are composed of little small flowers, making it a perfect natural food source for our hummingbirds in the park. 

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