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Environmental Work Can Make Summer Worthwhile

Several organizations will link youths with volunteer jobs on beaches, trails and wetlands around the area.


Here we are, kids, closing in on school vacation, and many of you haven't a clue what you will be doing this summer. Instead of hanging around the house or the mall, why not consider doing some environmental volunteer work?

You don't have to go to Brazil, according to Jon Earl, a local environmental educator. "This city is alive," he points out to the youthful volunteers he sends to help with environmental restoration projects all over the area.

There are plenty of opportunities available in the mountains around the San Fernando Valley, the wetlands in Malibu or at the primate shelter in Santa Clarita. If you're interested in devoting part of your summer to helping save the planet, this month is the time to make arrangedments.

Earl and his partner Ellen Petty operate an award-winning volunteer program, Rhapsody in Green in Studio City, which organizes groups of volunteers, ages 10 and up, to work with local scientists. Their work around the Valley and the county has won kudos from Mayor Richard Riordan, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and The Times.

The continuing task, as Earl explains it, is to weed, trim and replant damaged areas such as canyons and wetlands, "restoring the land to what it was before it was settled. With the right combination of plants, animals such as the butterflies and the woodpeckers will return and maintain the balance."

Rhapsody in Green is one of several organizations that kids may contact to do environmental work on weekends or for weeks at a time. Each group is ready to refer you to another group if you have a particular interest or time or location constraints.

Right now, Earl is helping recruit volunteers to work May 25 at the Center for Gibbon Studies in Santa Clarita. This is a shelter and research station devoted to the smallest ape in the world. Volunteers do cleanup and fix-up work as well as tend the animals; they're needed throughout the summer.

Saving the planet and its denizens isn't something for the timid or people without a sense of humor. On a recent day, the recorded announcement at the Rhapsody in Green volunteer headquarters requested callers to leave a message, because "we're not here right now. Due to ozone depletion, we're out basting rattlesnakes with sun block."


Here's a list of summer outdoor volunteer opportunities for kids:

Rhapsody in Green--Environmental cleanup and restoration of plant and animal habitats at locations from Santa Clarita to Malibu; for volunteers 10 and up, weekends and weekdays. (213) 654-5821.

State Parks Junior Rangers--State Department of Parks and Recreation. For kids 7-12, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, July to September; Leo Carrillo State Beach, Sycamore Canyon-Point Mugu State Park. (805) 986-8591.

Gutter Patrol--a Heal the Bay project. After training, volunteers enlist fellow citizens to stencil and monitor catch basins or gutters in their neighborhoods so beach pollution can stop where most of it begins--in the street. (800) HEAL BAY.

Teen Outreach Program--Tree planting and neighborhood cleanup organized by Volunteer Center of the San Fernando Valley, weekdays and weekends. (818) 908-5066.

U.S. Forest Service Tujunga Range District-Lake View Terrace--Trail maintenance and visitor center volunteer work for high school-age kids throughout the summer. (818) 899-1900.

Wetlands Action Network-- Hands-on wetlands learning experience (keeping a lagoon in Malibu free of debris). Every Friday, June-August. (310) 456-1700.

AmeriCorps--City of Pacoima community cleanup and beautification projects; weekends and weeklong, also tutoring in math and reading with kids in public housing projects. (818) 896-6310.

Also offering volunteer opportunities are Topanga-Las Virgenes Resource Conservation District, (310) 455-1030; Tree People, (818) 753-4600; and L.A. Urban Resources Partnership, (213) 580-1055.

Resource guide:

Environmental Affair--A monthly calendar of volunteer programs and events for all ages; city of Los Angeles Department of Environmental Affairs. (800) 439-4666.

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