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From the Director / June ’20

By on June 8, 2020 in Featured, News, Newsletter

At the OVLC, we think about community, because quite candidly we couldn’t be here without the support of our generous community. OVLC preserves are the places where the community comes to rejuvenate, exercise, or simply reflect. While COVID-19 has altered how we gather, with physical distancing in place and community and volunteer events on hold, OVLC is still a community-based organization. Therefore, we have the responsibility to speak up when our community is suffering. And we want to state loudly and clearly that OVLC open spaces are a place where everyone is welcome, and inclusion is the rule not discrimination.

The deeply disturbing and tragic murder of George Floyd (and many other people of color before him) as well as the recent racially charged incident in Central Park have us thinking about how we can ensure inclusion and safety in the outdoors.

I have birded in the Ramble in Central Park and all over the world. In
30 years of birding as a white man, I have never had any interaction
that comes remotely close to what Christian Cooper experienced. Mr. Cooper merely asked someone to put her dog on its leash, as
he was trying to observe a Mourning Warbler, a bird which stays close to the ground and therefore would be readily flushed from the Ramble by an of f-leash dog. While having dogs on leash is a rule in most of Central Park (and most nature preserves including all OVLC preserves), he was met with a sickening reaction. We need to do better.

Over the years, the land trust movement has been working to expand its understanding of how conservation can be meaningful to the broadest cross-section of society. We still have a long way to go at the OVLC, but one of the small steps we are in the process of undertaking includes adding a Spanish translation to our informational kiosks.

We are thinking about the national discussion taking place on racial discrimination, and reiterate that OVLC preserves are open for everyone. Having said that, we recently took the highly unusual step of hiring a private security firm to try to manage use on the Ventura River Preserve. While this might seem contradictory, use of the preserves has skyrocketed since schools, sports, and other activities have closed/been cancelled due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, over-crowding and over-use have started to damage the river.

This decision to more strictly enforce the rules of preserve use was not taken lightly, but the trampling of vegetation and lack of care was damaging the very resources that OVLC is tasked to protect. In these hot arid ecosystems, it takes a very long time for vegetation to recover from trampling along the river or regrow over new unsanctioned trails. One of our biggest challenges at the OVLC is to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors and broaden our community, while also ensuring that this does not impact the natural resources that are essential to our mission. The last thing that we want to see happen is for our river to be loved to death.

The recent surge of visitors also presents an opportunity to engage new constituents and grow the land conservation movement. We need to consider the types of amenities and infrastructure that we offer that can simultaneously be more welcoming while helping to control the unintentional impacts of overuse. As a community we need to welcome visitors who are less familiar with the great outdoors with a spirit of inclusion. Then, more folks will believe what OVLC supporters already know, and was best said by the transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Executive Director, Tom Maloney
June 2020

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