Posts tagged Park

Stoneview Nature Center. All photos: Kathy Rudnyk

I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, a community (thankfully) with more nature centers than Starbucks. These Northwest Louisiana nature centers typically host a wildlife refuge where animals are cared for and housed, eventually to be released back into the wild. One was once even located within the Louisiana State Museum complex in downtown Shreveport, complete with turtles and its own resident alligator! But most nature centers around the country are generally located outside of town, along the perimeters or right next to a trailhead.

Nature centers are increasingly hosting a wide variety of events and attractions like laser light shows, concerts, interpretative education programs, or environmental art events to draw in attendance. Typically inexpensive and kid-friendly, these centers are wonderful venues for birthday parties and many a school outings, offering the experience of a curated small animal zoo and botanical garden, all in one!

AHBE Landscape Architects recently completed the landscape design for the Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City, California. This type of nature center is distinct and appropriate for today’s city dweller hungry for a contemporary urban outdoor day retreat.

Encelia californica (California Bush Sunflower) brightens up any winter day.

Funded by the County of Los Angeles, Stoneview Nature Center is located above an existing subdivision, next to a busy La Cienega Blvd, a renowned “shortcut to LAX”. The site is sandwiched between the Inglewood Oil Field and the Kenneth E. Hahn State Recreation Area, blending Southern California native plants with suburban landscape plants, but with a twist. EYRC Architects was responsible for designing the park’s contemporary interpretivef nature center, filled with natural light inside, and a large shade structure serving large outdoor group activities.

Buddleia, commonly known as the butterfly bush.

Each of the plants within the park were chosen to meet certain performance criteria: drought resistance, stormwater bio-filitration efficacy, offer a nectar or pollen source, native to California or Baja California, or edible by people or pets. Another fun-filled design challenge was to match each plant within various color blocks along the various pathways; something is always blooming throughout the four seasons within each section.

Fast growing, ground hugging Ceanothus x ‘Centennial’ (Centennial California Lilac) is just starting to bloom. 

Stoneview Nature Center also represents the efforts of the art collaborative Fallen Fruit, whose silverware and kitchen tool chandelier fits beautifully within the urban park and garden setting used to host educational lectures and demonstrations. Fallen Fruit has hosted some really creative programming in the past, including DIY pickling and food ‘zine workshops. I recommend keeping tabs on the Stoneview Nature Center’s Facebook page for the next exciting event.

Adrian Rudnyk checks out a bee resting on a Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) and Penstemon. A giant bee hotel in the background welcomes carpenter bees.

Just as Los Angeles County is struggling to meet the demands of housing today for its residents, our city’s urban wildlife is suffering from a lack of habitat. The Stoneview Nature Center is making efforts to mitigate habitat loss by offering dense shrubs for small birds to hide from predators, an owl house high overhead by a thicket of trees to invite the nocturnal predators, a secluded bat box, and even a protected quail dome home in the middle of the site.

Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) also help urban wildlife congregate within the park-like setting. Over time, these large trees offer ample shade during the summer months and sustenance throughout the year for all varieties of animals and insects.

I love hummingbirds, so I was rather happy spotting a number of different ones flying within the mix of plants at the center, many enjoying a drink of nectar from Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage).

An unusual feature visitors may notice are the numerous methane vents dotting the grounds. The 5-acre site was once an active oil field and the interpretive center was built over an abandoned oil well – Dabney Lloyd #3. Signage with historic photos communicates the site’s storied past.

My husband and I really enjoyed the numerous edible plants within the site, including fruiting citrus trees, avocado trees, and my favorite, a berry patch filled with Vaccinium (Blueberry) and Rubus x ‘APF – 236T’ (Baby Cakes™ Thornless Dwarf Blackberry). For the birds, Vitis californica x vinifera ‘Roger’s Red’ (Roger’s Red California Grape) travels over a back fence, its winter foliage flamboyantly vibrant red.

Surrounded by so many edibles, my husband and I imagined making pizza with herbs collected from the garden, such as Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ (Prostrate Rosemary). Maybe there’s a wood oven somewhere within the park? We’ll have to come back and see if it is inside the building.

One parting bit of advice for your next visit to the Stoneview Nature Center: instead of driving and fighting traffic, I encourage you to take the Metro Expo Line. Get off at Jefferson/La Cienega station; a shuttle stop known as The Link offers a free ride to the park, operating roughly between 8am to 5pm. Visiting the Stoneview Nature Center is absolutely free, offering an especially gratifying and educational opportunity to enjoy nature throughout the seasons.





Photos: Julie An

Photos: Julie An

As a child growing up in the Sunset district of San Francisco, I was very lucky to live within a five-minute walk to Golden Gate Park. About once a week, when my parents had their day off from work, my dad and I would walk together to the park.

Every visit to the Golden Gate Park was exciting and special. Taking in the scenery as we entered the park from the street, my father and I would walk among the the tall Cypress and Eucalyptus trees. On cold mornings, my dad would make two cups of hot cocoa and we would enjoy it sitting on a bench by one of the park’s many lakes. We would also snack on toast and I would tear off the crust to feed the pigeons; the non-crusty portions of bread were reserved for dipping into the hot cocoa. I loved feeding the pigeons and getting close to the cute little squirrels.


I also remember taking field trips the California Academy of Sciences before it was renovated. My family and I would take visiting relatives to Stow Lake where we rented pedal boats for an afternoon on the water. Other favorite spots were the always beautiful Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanic Garden.

But I have to say that my all-time favorite part of Golden Gate Park as a child was Koret Children’s Quarter. In particular, I absolutely loved riding down the concrete slides on a piece of cardboard. To this day, the concrete slides are a timeless favorite of the playground and the park, which I hope will be preserved for many more years to come.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Newly constructed landscapes need time to mature. With some exceptions, landscape projects typically have budgets that do not allow for the installation of many, if any, large-sized trees or specimen plants and, hence, younger nursery stock is used. Landscape architects are challenged to design with consideration of a project’s aesthetic and functional value immediately upon construction and the long term consequences of time and maintenance practices.

After an appropriate time, we often return to our completed projects to see for ourselves how they have held up. As landscape architects we’re pleased when a design achieves its intended goals, but equally pleased when we discover the landscape re-invented, functioning in a somewhat different way to better serve the needs of the people who use it.

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008 and its dog park has become a popular socializing area for animals and their owners.

I am a regular user of a public park which our firm designed. The Santa Monica Airport Park opened in 2008, and at that time it was the first new park the city had built in nearly three decades, drawing the attention of several divergent special interest groups. From my perch at Airport Park’s dog park, I have observed the park’s maturity beyond its plant palette – which, by the way, has had some modifications. As a community space the park has held up to the original design intent and much more, becoming a popular destination for soccer matches, family celebrations, community group gatherings, picnics, children’s play and, of course, dog play.

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Among the park’s unexpected surprises for me are the establishment of new friendships which would not have occurred without the creation of this public space. The park also has a wider reach than we originally anticipated. For example, owners of specific dog breeds hold monthly meet-ups at the park which are announced through social media, a technology emerging since the park’s inception.

On a recent visit to the park I heard a group of people complaining about the lack of parking on weekends and how far they had to walk to get to the park. I smiled. This landscape has become a social routine for people, one worth an extra effort.