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LMU Celebrates Opening of Ballona Discovery Park in Playa Vista

Moonlight on the MarshMore than 300 members of the local community attended the sixth annual Moonlight on the Marsh celebration in the Ballona Discovery Park on August 13. The event, hosted by Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Loyola Marymount University and Playa Vista, offered a preview of the new park, scheduled to open soon to the general public. LMU has contributed $700,000 toward the park’s construction.

"For those of us who have been part of this collaborative process for a short time, to actually see this park get physically built and come together – right before our eyes over just the past few years – has been a very special experience," said Lisa Fimiani, executive director of Friends of Ballona Wetlands. "[We] welcome you to visit and experience the new open-air science and cultural center at Ballona Discovery Park when it officially opens to the public."

The 1.7 acre park in Playa Vista was designed to help people learn more about the history of the watershed and to understand their part in keeping the Ballona Wetlands healthy. Guests took a walking tour of the watershed, a willow tunnel and a Native American "Ki" dwelling, featuring the voice of Tongva representative Tonantzin Carmelo. Guests also explored several interactive and informative displays, including Audubon Ballona Docent Cindy Hardin’s microscope station and a tent filled with South Bay Wildlife Rehab live raptors and owls.

Eric Strauss, President’s Professor of Biology at LMU and director of the Center for Urban Resilience and Ecological Solutions, spoke about implementing a new formal education curriculum at the park. Rep. Maxine Waters presented Ruth Lansford, founder of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, with a special award honoring the ongoing collaboration between the organization and the local community. Also, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl spoke about the connection that the park provides to Native American ancestors and the environment. He presented an award to Joe Hellige, senior vice president and chief academic officer of LMU, in honor of the university’s partnership with the park.

"It’s been a pleasure working with the Friends and Playa Vista on the build-out of this wonderful new park," Hellige said.

For more information, go to www.ballonafriends.org.