On May 16, 2013, close to 400 parks and recreation professionals and other advocates of open space and nature gathered at the Los Angeles County Arboretum for a full day of presentations geared toward the theme of “Inspiring Natural Leaders.”
The sold-out 11th Annual park Summit drew representatives from more than 30 cities from across Los Angeles County, in addition to participation by a number of conservancies and state and federal agencies.
“This has become an occasion for all of us to learn new things about the state of our profession, and to stay current on the issues, trends and challenges that impact the important work you all do every single day,” Department of Parks and Recreation Russ Guiney said in his opening remarks.
The day was highlighted by a keynote speech by bestselling author Richard Louv (“Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”). Louv spoke passionately to the crowd about the vital importance of keeping children invested in the wonders and opportunities of the natural world.
A key component of accomplishing that goal, Louv said, was remaining mindful of diversity. He said he found that love of the natural world is a unifying ideal that “transcends politics, transcends religion” and other differences. “We need a new nature movement that is more hopeful, with more people at the table.”
Indeed, much of the day was devoted to that theme, with two sets of breakout sessions led by experts and professionals dedicated to advancing those values. Among the sessions:
- Reconnecting Children to Nature’s Playground
- Animal Ambassadors: Connections to Nature
- Linking Nature and Technology
- Pathways for Play: Infusing Play Into Trails to Attract Children and Families
- Without Nature, Children Will Suffer
- Healthy Design for Communities
- Deliver Nature Through Creative Environmental Education
- Bringing Nature to Play: Best Practices for Integrating the Living Landscape Into Outdoor Play Environments
- Special Olympics: Creating a Partnership That Works in Your Community
As co-founder of the Children and Nature Network, Louv praised the efforts of the leaders gathered at the summit, saying they are “creating an environment that brings kids back to life.”
Park Summit attendees also received a grants update from Sedrick Mitchell, deputy director of external affairs for California State Parks; a legislative overview from Doug Houston of The Houston Group; a Prop. A update from Jane I. Beesley, Administrator of the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District; and information on water conservation rebates from Gary Tilkian, a Resource Specialist with the Metropolitan Water District.