March 19, 2006
A3 and A15

Volunteers Revive Lake's Island Oasis

ALONDRA PARK: Envisioned in the '50s as a tea garden, the plot had been neglected until two local women set their sights on it.
Josh Grossberg
Daily Breeze

When the small island in the lake at Alondra County Park was constructed in the 1950s, plans called for turning it into a tea garden. That never panned out, and after proving difficult to manage, the 1.5-acre oasis was closed to the public - the only connecting bridge from the island to the mainland was fenced off and the site was left to decay.

But on Friday, a group of students from El Camino College dug up weeds, tilled the soil and laid a walkway that visitors can follow in this reinvigorated nature preserve. The project is nearing completion, culminating five years of work for two local women who saw the neglected expanse and decided to restore it.

"The idea was to make it more accessible and inviting" said El Camino entomology teacher Jeanne Bellemin. "We convinced the county to let us do it," she said. "They thought we were crazy, but gave us permission. I always said to Jeanne I would donate rubber sidewalks so people can go on the island without damaging the plants."

When the project is finished, visitors will be able to walk along the path and read signs about the island's plants and animals.

The island is only 50 years old and there is no native habitat to restore. Instead, Bellemin and Roy van de Hoek, who supervises the surrounding 83-acre park for the County of Los Angeles, are using many plants that can be found some 30 miles away on Catalina Island.

For van de Hoek, the piece of greenery is a local version of the Channel Island and one of the South Bay's hidden treasures.

"This like an island within an island," he said.

Wild animals that roam the enclave range from a wide variety of birds to gifts from Easters past. "The worst part is the abandoned chickens and rabbits," van de Hoek said.

The island will still be closed most of the time, but El Camino students will be able to visit regularly. And the public can come by for regular tours once a month.

"What's really interesting is Jeanne and I saw a problem," Smith said. "We saw this island. It was locked up. It was a mess. We said, 'Let's fix this.' And they let us."

Want to Go?

What: Guided tours of the island at Alondra County Park.

When: From 9 to 11 a.m., the first Saturday of every month. Tours are also available by appointment.

Where: Redondo Beach Boulevard near Prairie Avenue, just east of Lawndale.

Information: Call 310-217-8369 or 310-217-8366.

Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
Los Angeles, California
The Daily Breeze article, Volunteers Revive Lake's Island Oasis, written by Josh Grossberg, is accompanied also by a great photograph, taken by Robert Casillas. Both Grossberg and Casillas work for the Daily Breeze. The photograph shows two students working as at preparing the soil for placement of the tiles. The caption reads as follows: "El Camino biology students Micki Selander, and Agatha Ofoma prepare the ground for a rubber tile walkway on the island at Alodnra County Park east of Lawndale.

The article as written by Josh Grossberg is interesting and informative as it discusses the island nature of the island. Finally, I believe that this news article can also be interpreted symbolically as about hope, namely as a "geography of hope" for Los Angeles County.