The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary by going mobile, taking national parks outside the national parks. "LA Ranger Troca" (pronounced "La Ranger Troca") is the new visitor center on wheels that the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — L.A.'s local national park — is using to try bringing the parks directly to local residents.
Vanessa Torres, the Santa Monica Mountains L.A. district supervisor, said there are three main themes that LA Ranger Troca is trying to engage with the public around: recreation, L.A. history/culture and urban wildlife/citizen science. Torres said that one of the goals of LA Ranger Troca is to break down barriers that exist between people and parks.
"Some of those barriers can be as easy as not knowing what to do when you come to a park," Torres told KPCC. "LA Ranger Troca is connecting urban communities to nature within their own backyard."
LA Ranger Troca is set to visit areas including existing community parks and schools. Different "pop-up parks" have already been created with LA Ranger Troca visiting and setting up activities where people are already gathered. These activities can be as elaborate as obstacle courses that earn kids the title of junior ranger and sitting around a solar-powered campfire, or as simple as playing catch with a park ranger.
"We really encourage our staff to go out and take a baseball or football and throw it around with the kids that are there in that neighborhood, and really connecting with communities," Torres said.
At the 2016 Rose Parade, LA Ranger Troca's team of rangers swore in more than 14,000 junior park rangers. Torres said this was the kickoff event for the truck and stands out as a highlight since the Park Service was able to reach so many people at once.
For the centennial of the National Park Service, Torres said she hopes LA Ranger Troca acts as a catalyst to get people connected to parks in their own backyards — including the Santa Monica Mountains.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is one of more than 400 parks and monuments protected by the National Park Service. It encompasses the beaches of Malibu and more than 500 miles of trails in both L.A. and Ventura counties. The park in L.A.'s backyard is also one of only five places in the world with a mediterranean climate, plus it researches local species — like mountain lions and this three-legged bobcat.
LA Ranger Troca has planned appearances at the upcoming Oxnard and Ventura County fairs, but to keep up with the truck's whereabouts, follow Santa Monica Mountains on Twitter.