15 Jun Riding Round and My Car is (S)Low
Let me start off by saying, I hate driving. When I read the welcome letter from NPS stating that driving would be one of the most dangerous things that we would actually do all I could think was “whoop-de-doo I’m in for an interesting summer”. I’m sure this statement wasn’t even about driving La Ranger Troca, but just about driving in the freeways and city in general. I’m not proud of this, but I over estimated how well I knew the streets. Having always used the bus to get through LA, I had a bit of luxury in never having to think of some of the extras that drivers need to be aware of. On my very first day to the office I got lost trying to navigate my way around one-way streets and trying to find parking. On top of the hour commute through morning traffic just to get into the city, I spent a good chunk of time going in circles trying to find the office and the parking lot. After that experience, let’s just say it’s back to busses and rail for me!I feel like a sham writing about transportation and cars and traffic while everyone else writes about how beautiful their site is and the wonders of nature. As jealous as I am, I realize that this is such an integral part of the Los Angeles experience and story. It is impossible for me to write about my experiences without including the freeways, especially as commuting not only takes up a good portion of my time, but has effects on other people in the community as well. Just as the highways seem to connect LA together, they also tie together different aspect of history as well. The construction and expansions of highways has undeniably caused many changes. Many communities (that were largely made up of people of color) were separated and displaced by the construction of highways. I’m sure there is also something to be said about the health effects of people living near the freeways and train tracks today. Part of my internship includes driving around in LA Ranger Troca and occasionally going to the sites that are in the Santa Monica Mountains. What I get from these experiences is realizing just how far some of the more “natural” areas can be. This distance can be a barrier to people without reliable transportation, but what I’ve also learned from assisting with these pop-up programs is the impact that it has on wildlife as well. One of the main stories we share during our urban wildlife programs is the story of P-22, the mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park. P-22 is famous for having crossed two freeways to reach a new home (he’s also infamous for having snuck into the zoo and eaten a koala but that’s a story for another day). Mountain lions are territorial animals that require large spaces and wildlife fragmentation has definitely taken a toll on the behaviors and lives of the animals as well. As ugly and boring as my commute might be, and even though it gets me down at times, I think these moments and reflections are important in imagining the future of the people and nature of Los Angeles.