Occidental to Host Great Outdoors Initiative Public Listening Session

On July 8, top White House officials will hold a listening session at Occidental College's Thorne Hall on America's Great Outdoors Initiative to hear the public's ideas for building a 21st-century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnecting Americans with the outdoors.

President Barack Obama '83 launched America's Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and reconnect Americans to nature-from national and state parks to the urban green spaces of Los Angeles.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Harris Sherman, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy will participate.

The listening session at Occidental is part of a series being held across the country. President Obama inaugurated the America's Great Outdoors Initiative at a White House conference in April. The conference brought together community leaders working to protect their outdoor spaces to develop innovative ideas for improving conservation and recreation at the local level.

The July 8 event at Thorne Hall is free and open to the public. It will include break-out sessions so the public can share ideas. A free bike valet, provided by the L.A. County Bike Coalition, will be available to anyone arriving on bike. Occidental College is located at 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA 90041.

Occidental's Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, which is helping facilitate the listening session, emphasizes that L.A.'s own urban environment provides another critical dimension to the concept of the Great Outdoors.

"Whether it's community and school gardens, biking and walking pathways in the city, pocket parks and mountain open spaces, campaigns to re-envision the L.A. River and create living streets and public places, the efforts to connect nature and community to outdoor life and good green jobs in Los Angeles need to be central to the president's vision for this Great Outdoors Initiative," says Robert Gottlieb, director of UEPI and professor of urban and environmental policy.

"These efforts are central to our vision of a more livable and healthy environment and community, accessible to all," adds Occidental UEPI assistant professor Martha Matsuoka.

Occidental College will highlight its commitment to this vision through its efforts in developing one of the largest solar arrays in Los Angeles; in establishing a student-run community garden and active program around healthy and fresh food access; and through its commitment to biking through its bike-share program and the free bike valet for the July 8 event.

For more information on the America's Great Outdoors Initiative and to submit comments online, go to http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/.

For more information about Occidental's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, go to http://uepi.oxy.edu.