Image: Screenshot from Los Angeles Urban Rangers homepage.
With their crisp khaki shirts and drab green trousers, topped with the familiar Stetson hat, they would look at home in any national park, leading nature walks and offering kindly but serious advice about wilderness safety. But instead of the lush valleys of Yosemite or the stark canyons of Zion, these rangers can be found exploring the wilds of downtown Los Angeles.Featured over the weekend on NPR, the Los Angeles Urban Rangers are "an art collective set on teaching Angelenos how to view nature in their everyday surroundings." Their guided hikes most recently explored the Los Angeles River, the much-maligned, concrete-enshrouded waterway that runs through the city center. The river still has more-natural spots that are home to frogs, fish, egrets, herrings, and ducks, "Ranger Joe" Linton told the radio broadcaster, explaining plans to restore some of its natural function and make the area "more friendly for human access."
'Beach Safaris' Along Malibu Coastline
The rangers, who have been operating since 2004, made a name for themselves -- and some enemies -- by leading guided hikes along the Malibu coastline, showing people where they can stake a claim to publicly owned beaches, much to the dismay of some rich residents of the area. Participants in the beach safaris were "asked to perform typical 'beach activities,' such as yoga, building sand castles, and reading trashy magazines" in order to exercise their right to be on the beach as demonstratively as possible," the Los Angeles Times reported of one trip in 2009.
"We want people to think of these places as public beaches with private land next door, not the other way around," founding member Sara Daleiden told the newspaper.
Though the Malibu excursions ended in 2010, the Rangers still offer map-guides to Los Angeles and to Malibu public beaches that are cleverly modeled after the brochures distributed at national parks.
The L.A. River tour is part of an ongoing series of Ranger-led guided hikes around various Los Angeles neighborhoods in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art. As the Rangers remind people on their website: "Downtown L.A. is a 3,392-acre multiple-use area with a wide variety of opportunities for work, foraging, mating, and recreation." So why not get out and explore?
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