Today's guest author, Karen E. Klein, is the Smart Answers columnist for BusinessWeek.com as well as the LA Times Small Business columnist. That would seem to be plenty, but Karen is also much more. Please welcome Karen E. Klein.
photo by Steve Scauzillo
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve recently reconnected with elementary school classmates that I haven’t heard from in nearly 40 years.
The experience has taken me back to Los Angeles’ westside in the 1960s and early ‘70s. Our neighborhood, Ladera Heights, was located near vast tracts of open space owned at the time by the Hughes Aircraft Company.
This area, where we occasionally caught tadpoles, was referred to as “swampland.” Adults hoped these ugly mudflats would soon be put to good use, like the “beautiful” Marina del Rey development, that had been built in the 1950s.
Surely something was wrong with me, I thought as a grade-schooler. To me, the Marina, with its dense tangle of masts and thick, concrete high-rises, was the ugly monstrosity.
And the deepest yearnings of my heart were for natural places. I dreamt of flowing streams and open water. Whenever we drove by the Hughes property, I would look for glimpses of meandering creeks and shorebirds, tall grasses and slender cattails. They took my breath away.
No one else seemed sorry that all of it would eventually be paved over, dredged out and channeled under. I concluded that I must be some kind of weird throwback.
Life went on; we moved to Orange County and eventually to the San Gabriel Valley. I almost never revisited my old stomping grounds. But I couldn’t have been happier when I read that a group was dedicated to saving the old Hughes holdings. And it wasn’t a mud flat after all (somehow, I’d known that all along), but an estuary, The Ballona Wetlands.
It is one of the main things that make me stubbornly optimistic about the future, this ecological consciousness-raising that has taken place during my lifetime. Up and down the coast, plans to fill in and pave over wild places are being scuttled and damage done by commercial developers is being remediated.
The fight goes on, even here in our own backyard. I’m happy to be part of a new group, Friends of Peck Park, that aims to restore and revitalize a little gem located where Arcadia, El Monte, Temple City and Duarte meet. My husband, Steve, and I first stumbled onto this area, formally known as the Peck Road Water Conservation Park, on our bikes nearly a decade ago.
The 200-acre park, an abandoned rock quarry, houses a beautiful lake that attracts hundreds of species of local and migratory birds. The views of the San Gabriel Mountains are stunning. Yet right now, scruffy, run-down Peck Park is best known for gang crime by night and a county prison work-release program by day.
This Saturday, July 2, our Friends group will be hosting tours and an “open house” for the park, with the help of nonprofit Amigos de los Rios. Come over at noon, bring your own picnic lunch and enjoy a presentation about the park's restoration and potential, with tours to follow. You'll get a look at this jewel of the SGV’s “Emerald Necklace.” It's at 5401 N. Peck Road, Arcadia. Look hard for a small sign off Peck Road where you'll turn right (coming south on Peck) into the parking lot. You’ll learn about restoration and I promise you’ll be inspired.