On Friday April 16th, and Saturday April 17th, nearly 3,000 residents from the greater Los Angeles region attended the first annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival. In addition to families and organized school trips, nearly 30 community centers and other local organizations arrived on school buses and vans to take part in the daytime and evening festivities. The park estimates that half of the attendees were first time visitors to the park.
The festival was envisioned to give Southern California residents an opportunity to explore a nearby National Park Service unit, to engage in scientific discovery, and to become familiar with the recreational offerings in the mountains. Visitors took advantage of English/Spanish bilingual walks, nighttime trail hikes, owl banding, a bug show, lectures on mountain lion research and cultural history, and numerous hands on science stations for children of all ages.
A number of park partners joined in the event, bringing a diversity of programming. Partners included the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California State Parks, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The park’s Mounted Volunteer Patrol Unit and students from the SAMO Youth outreach program also engaged with the public and offered many fun science activities. A partnership with the organization Transit to Trails provided buses that allowed school and community groups to come to the park in large numbers.
The extremely large public turnout for this event demonstrates the desire for this type of programming in the Southern California region and the power of working with a number of partners to increase visitation by people that are new to the National Park Service.