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SoCal nature, science and history museums reap $30 million in state bond money

April 16, 2011 |  7:00 am

Southern California museums this week received a $30-million blast from the past –- those long-gone though not so distant pre-recession days of 2006, when Golden State voters thought their now-pauperized state was still golden enough to afford a $5.4-billion bond issue.

The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, which appeared on that November's ballot as Proposition 84, included $93 million for a Nature Education Facilities Program, and the Department of Parks and Recreation announced this week who’ll get the money. Nonprofit organizations and municipalities were eligible; parks department spokesman Roy Stearns said that 44 of the 370 applicants were successful. In all, more than $41 million was awarded for projects in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

The winners include:

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which will get $7 million for the North Campus Learning Gardens and Nature Lab that’s part of its overall renovation project. The 150,000 square-foot area will harbor gardens, a bridge, pond and stream, a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater and, perhaps best of all for the average elementary-school-age museum-goer (although perhaps not for his or her parents), a “Get Dirty Zone.”

Also receiving $7 million each are the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, toward construction of a 21,000 square-foot wing for exhibits on air quality, solar energy, California natural resources and sustainable design, and the San Diego Natural History Museum, to renovate and install an 8,000-square-foot gallery tracing the path of the San Diego River through mountain, desert and coastal habitats.

The Autry National Center of the American West gets $6.6 million for renovations that will carve out a Native American section on the first floor of the museum in Griffith Park. The project includes two galleries labeled “First Californians” and “Dreamers, Doctors, Basketweavers,” and an outdoor teaching garden with native plants.

Carpinteria State Beach will get $3 million for parkwide environmental education facilities; the Ocean Institute in Dana Point will receive $2.3 million for a floating (but fixed) teaching platform, renovations for its lobby and courtyard, and new exhibits; and California Science Center in Exposition Park will get $1 million for seven interactive exhibits in its Ecosystems galleries.

L.A. County’s parks department will get $1 million for indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center; the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants in Sun Valley will get $930,000 for gardens, an amphitheater and trailside exhibits and signage; $780,000 goes to the City of Riverside for a nature center in Sycamore Canyon; $714,000 to the City of Torrance for a viewing platform and nature and cultural exhibits at the Madrona Marsh Preserve; $648,000 for Ventura County for marine education exhibits in Oxnard; and the Orange County Coastkeeper environmental group will get $597,000 for a native plant botanical garden at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.

The City of San Juan Capistrano will get $498,000 to restore the Blas Aguilar Adobe historic site and add interpretive information on Native American culture; the City of Whittier gets $500,000 for a garden and exhibits on the Greenway Trail; Heal the Bay gets $440,000 for a new exhibit at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium; and $337,000 goes to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for exhibits on local marine life.


Natural History Museum to build $13-million whale of an entrance

Autry to remodel, creating Native American galleries in Griffith Park

Exploring the world's ecosystems in the California Science Center's new wing

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Artist's rendition of new north campus at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Credit: Natural History Museum and CO Architects.