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Audubon president to get bird's-eye view of Debs Park

September 30, 2010 |  1:42 pm

Birders
David Yarnold, the new president of the National Audubon Society, will get an earful of good news –- some of it delivered in Spanish -– next week when he tours the Audubon Center at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, a 282-acre island of steep slopes, grasslands and black walnut groves along the Pasadena Freeway in northeast Los Angeles.

The 7-year-old center, which offers caminatas familiares, or family nature walks, for Spanish-speaking visitors, was designed to connect with the region’s ethnically diverse communities and inspire a new generation of environmental stewards.

Diversity is a priority for Yarnold, former executive officer of the Environmental Defense Fund. It's a key strategy in the 400,000-member society for influencing political decisions, increasing membership and raising funds.

In an interview Thursday, Yarnold, who worked for more than 25 years at the San Jose Mercury News, said: “Debs Park is a success story. It’s an urban environment in which families unite and create lifetime memories around a better understanding of what makes the planet work.”

Yarnold, who became the 10th president of the National Audubon Society last month, will be meeting over the next two weeks with Audubon leaders throughout California.

On Tuesday, he is scheduled to tour Debs Park, an intersection of urban habitat, low-income neighborhoods, charismatic birds and outdoor family experiences.

“We are eager to meet with David Yarnold and share with him our achievements,” said Debs Center naturalist Gabrielena Castaneda, 33. “We offer lots of opportunities for community involvement including a program for middle school students and another called juntos en la natureleza, or Nature Together, for families.

“Two weeks ago, we held an event in partnership with the recreational equipment company REI that attracted 120 people from throughout the community. They collected and planted seeds, picked weeds and participated in nature programs. That’s the kind of thing we do here.”

-- Lou Sahagun

Photo: Natalie Acosta, 12, left, and her grandmother Maria Costa during a Spanish-language birders walk at Ernest E. Debs Park Audubon Center in 2007. The head of the Audubon Society will visit the center next week. Credit: Spencer Weiner / L.A. Times

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