“It's one thing for a child to push a button and see a picture of nature. But there is nothing like walking along a trail here, seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching nature all around you.” — Lucy Pedregon, Gabrieleno Indian and educator.Click here to read the story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday. The story was also reported in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, on the architecture website la.curbed.com, and in numerous locations on the Internet and blogosphere.
The tribal representatives and others who spoke at the event all communicated the message that the project — a $22 million taxpayer-funded water museum and meeting hall called the San Gabriel River Discovery Center — would be inappropriate development for an important area of remaining open space and a historic center of Gabrieleno culture; would destroy rare habitat, plants and wildlife; and threatens to disturb ancestral remains and artifacts.
Members of the tribe, the original Native American inhabitants of the Los Angeles basin, questioned the rationale for the project and its cost in natural, historical and cultural resources.
“It's one thing for a child to push a button and see a picture of nature,” said Lucy Pedregon, a Gabrieleno and a media aide in the Hacienda-La Puente school district. “But there is nothing like walking along a trail here, seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching nature all around you.”
The Gabrielenos also offered an alternative vision for the Whittier Narrows wildlife sanctuary and its nature center, including renovation of the existing facilities and inclusion of Native American history and artifacts, improvements to interpretive displays along nature trails, and a monthly volunteer program focused on sharing Native American culture with the community.
Renovation of existing interpretive centers or the adaptive reuse of other buildings has been successfully achieved at a number of locations in Southern California, including the National Park Service’s Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center on Santa Cruz Island, Los Angeles County’s Placerita Canyon Nature Center and Haramokngna cultural center high in the Angeles National Forest.
The Gabrieleno vision would use this sustainable, historically and environmentally focused approach to develop a rich cultural resource in the heart of urban east Los Angeles County.