The purpose of Nature p.L.A.y. (Nature Places for Los Angeles Youth) is to address a condition coined by Richard Louv, “Nature Deficit Disorder”, in Los Angeles children. Children are increasingly spending less time outdoors and many believe that this is linked to several health issues in our youth. We aim to open up a dialog about this condition and to serve as a resource for our community of Los Angelenos toward finding and building solutions. We can transform the image of Los Angeles from that of urban sprawl to a city that offers an abundance of natural resources for it’s youth.
Los Angeles is home to incredible opportunities for outdoor discoveries such as the Angeles National Forest which covers 655,387 acres and holds 66 campgrounds, 2 ski slopes, and wildlife-watching galore. The Santa Monica Mountains cover 40 miles of land and have over 1,000 sites of archaeological significance. Griffith Park and it’s 4,200 acres makes it one of the nation’s largest urban parks. Our coast spans 70 miles and is home to 30 miles of beaches. The Los Angeles River (51 miles long), San Gabriel River (75 miles), and the Rio Hondo Tributary (20 miles) combined offer over 140 miles of opportunities for recreation along side a great blue heron or a flock of migrating geese. The Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation boasts 52 hiking trails and encourages people to use them. The outdoor opportunities LA has to offer do not simply exist on the perimeters of our city or merely in close proximity to the affluent. There are botanical gardens and outdoor recreational areas in such unlikely places as South El Monte where you can find the incredible 1,400 acre Whittier Narrows Recreational Area or the 300 acre Deb’s Park in Highland Park, containing an Audubon Center which provides bilingual nature programing year-round.
Are Los Angeles children being exposed to these incredible resources?
Studies have proven that children who are exposed to nature and unstructured outdoor play have:
- Decreased risk of developing anxiety and depression
- Reduced symptoms of ADD
- Increased self-esteem
- Lower risk of developing childhood obesity
- Opportunity to develop skills such as negotiation, creative-thinking, conflict resolution, leadership, among others
The evidence is there, yet our youth are spending an average of over two hours per day in front of the television and a mere four minutes per day engaging in outdoor play. The rate of obesity in children is expected to reach one in five by 2010.
QUESTION: Where CAN the Children Play?
ANSWER: IN L.A.
Los Angeles has an opportunity to set an example for healthy city living by making our children’s exposure to the outdoors a priority. We hope that Nature p.L.A.y. can help by providing resources, links, information, tips, a forum for discussion, and a home to unite others working toward this goal.
– Ilana Gustafson Turner