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Environment & Science

LA's new nature center aims to get more urban kids outdoors




Jilly Canizares, Los Angeles Operations Manager for the Western National Parks Association, Los Angeles, shows off crafts from local Tongva artists at the new Center in downtown L.A.
Jilly Canizares, Los Angeles Operations Manager for the Western National Parks Association, Los Angeles, shows off crafts from local Tongva artists at the new Center in downtown L.A.
Dorian Merina/KPCC
Jilly Canizares, Los Angeles Operations Manager for the Western National Parks Association, Los Angeles, shows off crafts from local Tongva artists at the new Center in downtown L.A.
The Gateway to Nature Center features arts and crafts from Native American cultures, such as this walnut dice game that children can play.
Dorian Merina/KPCC
Jilly Canizares, Los Angeles Operations Manager for the Western National Parks Association, Los Angeles, shows off crafts from local Tongva artists at the new Center in downtown L.A.
The Gateway to Nature Center opens to the public on December 9 and aims to get more Angelenos, and especially youth of color, out into the great outdoors.
Dorian Merina/KPCC


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If you're stuck in L.A. and yearn for the great outdoors, never fear: there's a new way to take a break from the city.

It's called Gateway to Nature.

The new spot is located near the city's historic center of Olvera Street and opens this weekend. The market, classroom and cultural site is designed to give urban dwellers a taste for the outdoors and learn more about our surrounding mountains, forests and rivers.

"The mission of this center was really to get Angelenos to go out," said Jilly Canizares, Los Angeles Operations Manager with the Western National Parks Center, Los Angeles, during a tour of the Center. "We really wanted to replicate the experience of being out in nature."

A map at the Gateway to Nature Center shows the distance and commuting time for Angelenos coming from downtown L.A.
A map at the Gateway to Nature Center shows the distance and commuting time for Angelenos coming from downtown L.A.
Dorian Merina/KPCC

The project is spearheaded by the Western National Parks Association in partnership with the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, and the City of Los Angeles.

There's a large map of the city's nature spots on one wall, with distance and commute times, and crafts from local Native American artists. It's especially designed to get more urban youth excited about getting out into nature, with craft tables for children and bird calls playing through speakers in the background.

Jeff Vail, Forest Supervisor with the Angeles National Forest, next to a map that shows access to hiking and recreational areas near to urban L.A.
Jeff Vail, Forest Supervisor with the Angeles National Forest, next to a map that shows access to hiking and recreational areas near to urban L.A.
Dorian Merina/KPCC

"We need to put wheels under the forest and the park and bring it to the city, bring it to the people," said Jeff Vail, forest supervisor with the Angeles National Forest. "To remind folks that these public lands, these open spaces, these natural experiences are available and within easy reach."

What: Gateway To Nature Center

Where: 130 Paseo de La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012

When: Opening to the public on Friday, December 9, 2016.

More info: Regular Hours: 9:30am-6pm. Free admission.