The Greening of L.A. is Aim of New Center; Education

Daily News, October 3, 2008

The Greening of L.A. is Aim of New Center; Education: TreePeople campus sprouts in the San Fernando Valley

By Dana Bartholomew

STUDIO CITY – A slurry of candy wrappers, plastic bottles and oil gushed into a storm drain Thursday and slithered out to sea.

And children from Toluca Lake Elementary stared at the polluted stream and cried, “Oh, nooo!”

“If we don’t like this, what can we do to fix it?” said Cody Chapel, an educator for TreePeople, beside a mock river into a faux Pacific. “Keep the trash out of the stream, people, because it all ends up in the ocean.”

The stream gurgled through a $10 million education campus that officially opened Thursday at the TreePeople headquarters at Coldwater Canyon Park. The four-acre Center for Community Forestry advocates how to use trees and the best environmental practices to reduce water, air and other pollution. And to transform Los Angeles into a sustainable leafy city.

“Los Angeles was once a healthy and beautiful environment,” said actress Annette Bening, a TreePeople regular, during the ribbon-cutting with city, county, state and federal officials. “And we share the vision that it will be beautiful once again. This is the center that will heal L.A., one neighborhood at a time.”

Actor and avid environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. rode his bike to the hilltop park at Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Mulholland Drive.

He and other celebrities came to celebrate the Leadership in Energy and Environmental design platinum-certified conference center, built to the highest environmental standards.

Or to wander through an urban watershed garden, where 70,000 visitors a year are expected to learn the difference between good and bad urban runoff.

Or to meander through an expanded nursery of native plants and a porous parking lot atop a giant rain-catching cistern.

Founded 35 years ago, TreePeoiple has 6,000 volunteers who renew watersheds, plant thousands of trees each year and will soon restore forests in the fire-scorched San Bernardino Mountains.

The TreePeople center hosts 10,000 child visitors a year.

“It’s to equip every single kid,” said founder Andy Lipkis, standing at the end of the fake L.A. River, “to let them, know that they can make a difference.”