2023 Central Group Banquet Awardees

2023 Central Group Banquet Awardees

This past May, we were excited to celebrate three of our amazing Central Group activists and volunteers at the 2023 Angeles Chapter Awards Banquet!

Innovation in Outings Award: White Cane Hike Team  (Will McWhinney accepting)

Will holds award given to him and Hearts for Sight founders and ICO volutneerWill McWhinney, our indefatigable Outings Chair, helped jump-start hikes for the blind and visually impaired. Since 2019, in collaboration with an organization dedicated to providing access to nature for the blind and visually impaired and with the support of Inspiring Connections Outdoors (another Sierra Club group), the White Cane Team led almost 40 hikes monthly, sometimes with up to 50 people, for around 235 visually impaired and blind Angelenos and guides. Last year, with Will’s experience as an instructor for wilderness hiking and camping, the group added camping trips to their list of activities.  

White Cane Hikes involve numerous volunteers from a variety of affiliations. The hikes require a 1:1 volunteer-to-VIP ratio, meticulous scouting, accommodations, and other unique challenges. The team’s enthusiasm and energy has resulted in growing participation. The collaboration is an example of people from diverse backgrounds coming together inclusively to benefit a community empowering themselves equitably, in the spirit of the Jemez Principles.

Congratulations, Will and the White Cane Team. You all deserved this award as a reflection of your amazing work.

Environmental Justice Award: Linda Cleveland

Linda holding her award with DyanaLinda is immersed in a seemingly endless list of environmental justice initiatives – right where she lives. She was part of the “40 Million Reasons to Go Electric” campaign, and helped coordinate a ride-and-drive event in Watts, working to bring awareness and support for electric vehicles to her community. Linda also recently helped organize the Wattskanda Renaissance Parade, uplifting community developments for a healthier Watts.

She also helped lead efforts on the South Los Angeles AB 617 Community Steering Committee and has advocated for increased funding and an expansion of the community boundaries. Linda is also involved in the Tree People Watershed Leadership Group, Watts Rising-Transformative Climate Communities advisory group, and various other community leadership roles. She eats, sleeps, and drinks her community’s well-being. 

Linda is both an activist with Sierra Club and helps lead Watts Clean Air and Energy Committee (WCAEC), a Sierra Club partner. 

Linda and her daughter, Jackie Badejo, were just honored in the South Coast AQMD’s 2022 Clean Air Awards, receiving the award for Leadership in Air Quality for their work promoting air quality and climate awareness for the Watts Community and for their work on the Community Steering Committee.  

Linda is being recognized today for her consistent and determined efforts toward social and environmental justice. We’re proud of you!  

Sierra Club Ambassador Award AND Innovation in Activism Awards: Mathieu Bonin 

Mathieu gets a thumbs from from DyanaDuring the pandemic, when acquiring a full roll of toilet paper might have been your only goal, Mathieu Bonin created a safe outdoor event that was both educational and good for the environment. He started Trash Talk Saturdays, where volunteers are invited to pick up trash at urban parks while learning about its history on a live conference call (listening in through ear buds). Volunteers thus can maintain social distance while experiencing nature and learning.

Mathieu’s first Trash Talk, at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, was included in the L.A. Times’ “Wild” column. He and Sierra Club volunteers have now cleaned and learned about parks around the region, including South Park, Bosque del Rio Hondo, Sepulveda Basin Nature Reserve, Griffith Park, Elysian Park, Ascot Hills Park, Debs Park, Elyria Canyon Park, Hollenbeck Park, and Lincoln Park.  As Mathieu puts it, “My idea is that knowledge enhances our appreciation of most everything; it’s a cognitive approach.”

Trash Talk Saturdays are posted on MeetUp, and the public is welcome! We salute Mathieu for his innovation, and meticulous and interesting research exploring each park’s history and sociology, often pulling in politics, class, race and gender.  

Trash Talk Saturday # 5 – Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

Trash Talk Saturday # 5 – Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

Trash Talk Saturday # 5 

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve 

If Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living” couldn’t we say “ It’s not worthy to live in an unexamined City” ? 

      Trash talk Saturday went in May to Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. It’s a fantastic park to discover, one of the rarest places in LA 100% dedicated to wildlife. The reserve in itself is about 225 acres but the whole park is a larger recreation area (about 2000 acres including different facilities). The wildlife zone is divided in two parts, one in the south of the Burbank Boulevard, and one in the north. In the north part of the reserve you can go walking (without dogs), along the shores of the small lake and along Haskell Creek. You will observe many birds so take your binoculars!

      Enjoying a little bit deeper parks during Trash Talk Saturday, means having a better understanding of the location we are cleaning. It’s also a path for a better appreciation of the location. We had two talks during this Trash Talk Saturday : one about the history of the park, one about trash (highlighting this month the issues raised by plastics). I am just going here to highlight a few ideas, so don’t hesitate to ask us for the text itself or the sources used to make the talks. 

Sepulveda basin wildlife reserve history. 

What is important to remember about Sepulveda Basin Wildlife? The first obvious thing to say: it’s a wetland area and of course that is largely explained by the presence of the Sepulveda Dam in the south east of the recreation area. But in order to explain the presence of the water that led to the creation from 1979 to 1984 by the US Army Corps of Engineers of the south part of the reserve and in 1988 of the north part we need to understand the relationship between geographical and geological aspects of a natural history and of course, human history. 

Sepulveda Basin is located within the San Fernando Valley which is a watershed explained by the presence of Mountains on the south (Santa Monica Mountains), on the east (San Gabrie Mountains), on the north (Santa Susana Mountains), and on the west (Simi Hills). The water from the mountains end in this watershed basin, the San Fernando Valley. (Sierra Club Angeles chapter website)  But the story of the park is not only related to the history of the Los Angeeles River and its management by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The story of the park is also linked to the geological aspects of California and the tectonicity : the park exists because of the Sylmar earthquake. The Van Norman Reservoir nearly collapsed during the event and clay was taken from the sepulveda basin for consolidation purposes. The removal of clay left pits in the area that start becoming filled with water in winter. The wetland area was borned ! (sepulveda basin wildlife website / Audubon society website)

The most interesting part of this history is maybe the story of the creation of an ecosystem designed to sustain the fauna, especially the birds . Elle Zunino is one of the botanist who did the research and the work, in the late 70S : “ We selected plant species based on the physical environment behind the dam, the species native to the area and the needs of the fauna, especially birds.  Riparian on the bottom-land and coastal sage/chaparral species on the hotter, drier south-facing berms.” (sepulveda basin wildlife website) Human transform the surrounding and create environment,  int this are in particular, Elle Zunino wasn’t and her colleagues wasn’t the first to do so in the 80s  – The Tongva by their actions “promoted and maintained habitats of useful plants and animals” (Audubon Society). Unfortunately part of that work was destroyed in 2012 and the tension between flooding management and creation of parks and preservation of ecosystem is a question raised again today with the LA river project. (Los Angeles Times)  

Trash talks about trash : Plastics

There are different good things about participating in Trash Talk Saturday. The first one is the most obvious : you see the positive result or your own action : clean a small area and enjoy comparing a before and after pictures. You really remove trash and you can see it, you can weigh it, you can count every trash you grab and remove from the ground !

This Saturday the equivalent of 25 bags of trash was removed from three spots and we can be proud to say that Haskell Creek is a little bit cleaner! But there are other benefits in doing that. Collecting trash creates a mirror of our social practices : what do we buy, consume, and throw (sometimes unfortunately in our surroundings) and also what kind of trash do we collect. One of them is of course Plastic. Julien did the first part of a talk about plastic. Explaining the creation of plastic, explanations about the success of plastics in our economy were given : How come that plastic is now found everywhere : in our home, in the industry and unfortunately in different ecosystems especially the coastal one and the ocean ? In 2015 the world produced more than 380 million tons of plastic which is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population.  (Our World in Data, 2018) Discussion followed about possible actions, facts: a good way to think and act on a Saturday morning.  

Audubon society [Online] // NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY. – https://www.sfvaudubon.org/natural-history-of-the-san-fernando-valley/.

Audubon Society History of SBWA [Online]. – https://www.sfvaudubon.org/13914-2/.

KCET [Online] // In the Heart of the Valley: How to Explore the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve . – https://www.kcet.org/food-living/in-the-heart-of-the-valley-how-to-explore-the-sepulveda-basin-wildlife-reserve.

LA Times [Online] // Los Angeles Time. – February 4, 2021.

Sahagun Louis LA times Nature group stunned after Army Corps levels habitat; Trees and shrubs in part of Sepulveda Basin will be replaced with native grasses. [Online]. – Los Angeles Time, Dec 29, 2012 Dec 29.

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife [Online]. – https://www.sepulvedabasinwildlife.org/wildlifeareas.html.

Sierra club – Los Angeles Chapter GROUNDWATER RECHARGE, RETENSION & POLLUTION [Online]. – https://angeles.sierraclub.org/groundwater_recharge_retension_pollution.

Thomas O’Keefe Scott R. Eliott, Robert N. Naiman [Online] // US Environemental protection Agency. – https://cfpub.epa.gov/watertrain/pdf/modules/watershedecology.pdf.

Our world in data.

https://ourworldindata.org/