16 April 2011

Earth Day at Chino Hills State Park's New Discovery Center

Dozens of volunteers gather at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center in Brea prior to beginning work on landscaping the parking area.  Some park rangers are beginning some of the prep work.

This morning at the new Discovery Center at Chino Hills State Park in Brea, the annual Earth Day restoration and cleanup program was held.  Dozens of volunteers, including a big turnout from employees of the Southern California Gas Company, showed up at about 9 a.m. to assist in the creation of river rock beds in islands within the parking lot, while children made seed balls that will be used in landscaping.  Tours of the nearly-completed facility were also provided, as well as lunch.

Actually, the turnout of dozens of volunteers was such that the work that was done with river rock replacement was over within probably 45 minutes to an hour.  The trick is that the state parks folks can plan for projects, but if they have too much to do if the turnout is small, then the prep work was not the best use of planning time.  But, then again, what happened today was that there was such a response that the project wound up being completed quickly.  Fortunately, it was a hot day and if the work had stretched later in the morning, it would likely have been uncomfortable for some people.

Another view of the Center, folks gathering for volunteer work, and a section of
parking "islands" and the river rock being used for landscape within them.

The $3.5 million center still has some major work to be finished, even though the main structure, including a community meeting room and restrooms on one side and the discovery center exhibit area on the other, is done.  The parking areas have been graded, but the pavement has yet to be poured.  A garden on the south end of the center has just been planted and hydroseed was only recently sprayed.  The exhibits are still in process. 

State Parks personnel, though, considered today's event to be a "soft opening," and there will be the 3rd Annual Wildfire Awareness Fair, previously held at Western Hills Park on the Chino Hills portion of the canyon, there in a few weeks on Saturday, 14 May.  So, activity is starting to happen at the site.

A portion of the newly laid out garden at the Center which will feature plants found within the State Park.  In the background are stands of trees along Carbon [Canyon] Creek that were burned in the November 2008 wildfire, but which also are showing new growth and are habitat for nesting birds.

It is also noteworthy that, in a series of opening remarks by parks staff and Brea mayor Don Schweitzer, there was also the presentation of an award to the founders of Hills for Everyone, the conservation group that spearheaded the drive to create the park some thirty years ago and which also worked to secure an agreement with Southern California Edison to remove powerlines and towers that were taken off the power grid. 

As these things tend to do, the agreement was not carried out and it took additional "heavy lifting" by Hills for Everyone and others to finally nudge SCE into removing some 40 towers and over 7 miles of line just within recent months.  A remnant from the lines was given to the organization as a token of appreciation for all the work it has done and continues to do to preserve rapidly vanishing open and recreational space.

Young participants in the Earth Day work party walk the decomposed
granite pathsof the garden next to the Discovery Center.

Although it is strange that $3.5 million was obtained from grant funds for the center, yet the parks system has been threatened with huge budget cuts and site closures, there is no denying that the facility was well-planned, well-designed and well-built and, hopefully, will be well-served when it comes to being the western gateway to the 14,000-acre park.  It will be interesting to see the center when everything is completed and the exhibits are in.

In the meantime, those interested should check the Web site of the Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association (a link is at the right sidebar on this blog) for next year's Earth Day event and come out to help.

An interesting feature of the Discovery Center landscape is this catch basin that will collect
rain and runoff and serve as a pond for habitat within the park.

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