2008-02-07

Henderson lecture at ECHS

I went to a lecture tonight by Brad and Amy Henderson, who restored the land around their family home in Lawndale to riparian, dune, and coastal scrub habitat as well as adding sustainable food production. They spoke at the Environmental Charter School, recently relocated next door to the "Henderson Habitat" at the former Betsy Ross School. I stumbled across the Henderson lecture announcement on the LA Times green blog, Emerald City, which I hadn't bothered to read until today. I'll have to make a point of browsing it occasionally.

About 10 or 12 people were in attendance. They didn't all look like teachers, but they did all have the rapt focus and high energy of the true believer. I thought it was a little odd at first since my other exposures to native plant folks have been to people with a gardening fixation, which doesn't generally come with the same flavor of Kool Aid. The mood tonight definitely mixed a bit of revival meeting (I felt a few suppressed "Amens!" and "You go, brothers"), some hippy idealism, and political activism in a happy way. The mood was contagious and I left (a little early, unfortunately, since I would have loved to stay and talk) topped off with good vibrations and feeling at karmic peace. ;-)

One of Brad and Amy's most uplifting stories about their habitat was the spontaneous re-appearance of nearly extirpated wildlife. Lawndale is poorly named - there's hardly any green space in town, the houses mostly sit cheek by jowl on perhaps 35' wide lots, and what little yard space there is tends to be bright green Marathon Sod and concrete. Until 1999 or so, many of the medians were covered in Astroturf! Imagine the Henderson's surprise to find a pair of Western Toads (?might have remembered the name incorrectly) had quickly found, inhabited, and reproduced in a pond that they installed. (They even had toad porn video!) Where in that concrete jungle could they have been hiding? Also making an appearance was the rare Acmon blue butterfly, now regularly spotted in their yard, as well as various rare birds that normally wouldn't like such an urban environment as Lawndale. This parallels my experience with increasing amounts of remnant wildlife finding its niche in my yard.

Apparently there's a move afoot at next door ECHS to green the campus, and they were ecstatic to be moving in next to a real green revolutionary. But like ships passing in the night, Brad and Amy had already left for greener pastures and a job with the Forest Service elsewhere. Tonight they happened to be in town on business and were able to make the connection with the school. Their home and the land around it is currently occupied by a tenant, who also was at the lecture. He sounded appreciative to have the opportunity to live in the habitat.

It would be a shame for the City of Lawndale to lose this habitat. Perhaps forward-thinking folks of Lawndale might offer to buy the property as a preserve and historic site if it ever comes up for sale.