LOS ANGELES – Three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District park rangers took advantage of the opportunity to interact with families during an overnight fishing event this past weekend.
The Sept. 26 event, hosted by Los Angeles County, was at the Whittier Narrows Recreation area in Montebello. The rangers participated in the event in place of National Public Lands Day, the largest single-day volunteer event for America’s public lands, with the purpose of inspiring environmental stewardship.
This year presented some challenges for federal agencies looking to engage the public in National Public Lands Day; however, planners for the fishing event ensured COVID-19 safety precautions were in place.
During the event, LA District park rangers shared information with families about a range of topics, including flood preparedness, environmental stewardship and water safety.
“Parents and children seemed excited to know about who we are, what we do and how we can assist them,” said Annel Monsalvo, LA District park ranger. “We provided coloring books; activity books, both in English and in Spanish; and other goodies, such as Frisbees, cups, adhesive phone pouches and towels.
“Even with the current pandemic, we were still able to maintain social distancing and make it a memorable experience for everyone.”
It was the first public event in the LA District for Park Ranger Linda Babcock, who said it “went very well” and gave park rangers plenty of in-person time with both children and adults.
“We were able to give water safety awareness presentations and talk to people about picking up their trash, and we handed out bags with water safety messages on them to keep the area clean,” Babcock said. “One young boy was so excited and thought we were so nice that he wanted to give us hugs. We settled on elbow bumps.”
LA District Park Ranger Mary Carmona, who was not able to attend this particular event, but who regularly attends public outreach events with the district, said education is the prime reason park rangers use these events for community engagement.
“It's our job to educate and inform the public,” Carmona said of herself and her fellow park rangers. “I lived just two miles away from Whittier Narrows for many years, so I am very familiar with the community.
“I am aware of the issues in the area, so these type of events are a great way to educate them on other topics, not just water safety.”
One of the issues in the area is illegal dumping, Carmona said, said the event was a perfect opportunity to educate participants about environmental stewardship. The event, she said, also was about building relationships with the community.
“We are all about building relationships … what better way than to be a part of these programs,” Carmona said. “Whenever our lessees hold events, we try to jump at the opportunity to attend as many as we can. It's a great opportunity to let the community know who we are.”
ABOUT NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
National Public Lands Day is the largest single-day volunteer event for America’s public lands. Established in 1994, it occurs annually on the fourth Saturday in September. Its purpose is to celebrate the connection between people and green space in their community, inspire environmental stewardship and encourage use of open space for education, recreation and general health, according to the National Parks Service website.
It is organized annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation in cooperation with the departments of Interior, Army and Agriculture. Participating agencies include the Corps, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service.
In 2019, LA District park rangers partnered with volunteers and local agencies, including the Whittier Narrows Nature Center and Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, as part of a San Gabriel riverbed site cleanup at the Whittier Narrows Nature Center. During the event, about 150 volunteers removed 6,500 pounds of debris and trash.
Nationwide in 2019, more than 10,200 volunteers served 37,000 hours on Corps-managed lands, removing 112,000 pounds of trash, cleaning 840 miles of roadways and shoreline, planting 3,000 trees and shrubs, improving 177 acres of habitat and engaging 296 partner organizations.
The Corps has been involved with National Public Lands Day since its inception in 1994 and has consistently been one of the event’s largest providers of sites and volunteers. The Corps manages more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states. With 90 percent of these projects located within 50 miles of metropolitan areas, Corps’ sites provide a wide range of safe and affordable outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.
For more information about National Public Lands Day or to find events near you, visit http://www.publiclandsday.org/ or call a local Corps’ lake or river project office. For more information about the Corps’ recreation opportunities, visit www.CorpsLakes.us.