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FAMILY | FOR THE KIDS

Finding Faults

Park docent will join the celebration of Earth Day by sharing her knowledge about earthquakes.

March 20, 1997|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This weekend some people will begin celebrating Earth Day, which has evolved into a monthlong event. (Officially, Earth Day isn't until April 22.) Some will visit Eco Expo, the big show of environmental educational events, products and services being held at the L.A. Convention Center on Friday and Saturday. Others, taking inspiration from the fact that today is the first day of spring, will go somewhere less urban to commune with nature.

Patty Morrison, a volunteer docent for the National Park Service who conducts Saturday walking tours along trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, says: "The Earth Day celebration is an occasion to reflect on the life cycle of the planet and the processes that are continually changing it."

Her spin on this concept is a presentation entitled "Franklin's Faults," which deals with changes related to earthquakes.

Morrison says her hourlong tour allows visitors to "get up close to earthquake faults" that have created Franklin Canyon and the Santa Monica Mountains range.

She started conducting these docent presentations right after the Northridge earthquake, "because I wanted to give myself and others some sense of control."

As she explained: "The psychological aspect of dealing with earthquakes, especially so far as kids are concerned, is often overlooked. The more knowledge you have, the better off you are in terms of dealing with one."

Earthquakes are a natural part of the life cycle of the planet, she tells visitors.

They happen frequently in our area even though most are so small we often don't notice them.

In the last year, over 18,000 were recorded, she says, citing a report this month in The Times. Her tour focuses on the geological aspects of earthquakes.

She often takes participants to a spot where the clearing of vegetation for a fire road has revealed two of the faults running between the Hollywood Hills and Malibu.

"If kids ask whether the ground will split during a quake where we're walking, I say it will just shake," she says. "These are small faults."

She intersperses her geology commentary with earthquake-safety tips provided to her by the Red Cross and local fire departments. Examples: "Keep a supply of food and water at home because quake damage might interrupt deliveries to nearby stores.

And assign each member of the family a job to do after a quake--so everybody has something to do to keep their minds off the quake itself.

Of particular interest to kids who take the tour will be an outcropping of ancient rock called quartz diorit in the park. So what? you might ask, until Morrison points out that this site near Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland drives is 150 million years old.

She has a sly smile on her face as she utters the magic word that utterly transforms this place.

As she tells her young tour members, "It's Jurassic."

BE THERE

"Franklin's Faults" at William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom in Franklin Canyon Ranch Park, 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive (near Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland drives), Sat., 11 a.m. Free. (310) 858-3090.

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