The parade committee is looking for 50 entries made up of floats, community groups, local sports teams, marching groups and school bands, to participate in the hometown event on Wednesday, July 4. While attendees love parade mainstays like the Great Pyrenees, the LAFD bandwagon and the Hogs motorcycle group, the committee is always interested in attracting a few new entries and floats each year to wow the crowd.
“We love and appreciate seeing all of our parade favorites year after year, but we always enjoy adding in a few entries that people have never seen before,” said Parade Chair Gwen Vuchsas. “For any group that has considered participating in the past, we’d love to have you submit an application and become part of the rich tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July in Westchester.”
If anyone has an idea for a float or entry they’d like to see in the parade, the committee is always open for suggestions as well, says Vuchsas.
For the third year in a row, parade organizers held a contest inviting community members to submit a theme for the event. The winning theme, “Cities Across America,” was submitted by LMU’s Director of Community Relations, Andrew O’Reilly, who will have the opportunity to ride in a convertible in the parade with his family.
The parade committee is encouraging applicants to pick a great American city and design their entry to pay tribute to its landmarks, famous people, ambiance and anything else that makes the city special. Each city can only be represented once during the parade, so participants are encouraged to submit their applications early with their location of choice.
“We’re really excited to see what cities our entries will choose to represent,” said LAX Coastal Chamber Board Chair and committee member, Liz Hall. “We’re looking forward to seeing a snapshot of the unique and diverse great cities of America and how our entries decide to portray them at the parade. ”
The Fourth of July Parade Committee is also accepting audition videos for those interested in singing the National Anthem at the event. Audition videos can be posted to facebook.com/laxcoastal or emailed to email@example.com by Friday, April 13. While everyone is encouraged to submit audition videos, preference is given to students who live or attend school in Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey and Del Rey.
For more info on participating in this year’s parade or sponsorship opportunities, please call the chamber office at (310) 645-5151. Applications to participate can also be found at laxcoastal.com/parade or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LAX Coastal Chamber board room is alive with conversation. Professionals from all walks of life and industries are chatting excitedly as they sip their morning coffee (after making sure that it is indeed NOT decaf) and snack on a selection of fresh fruits. In between snippets of laughter is the rustle of paper as forms are read and waivers are signed. It is Thursday, February 8, and today is another session of the LAX Coastal Leadership Academy.
Our theme for the day is “Public Safety and Sanitation,” and the waivers in question are our tickets to the day’s first stop, the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Through the support of our Marina del Rey Sheriff’s contact, Lieutenant Johnson, and the helpful staff at the Twin Towers, our small group was granted a two-on-fourteen personal tour of the facility. Our Deputy Tour guides walked us through the concrete halls of their “office,” where everything was a brisk 65 degrees and an oddly comforting mixture of clean and sterile, and taught us about the inner workings of our jail system. We were given tours of modules, a collection of 3 rooms that hold roughly 44 inmates each and was under constant monitoring by a group of officers, learned how colors were used to identify specific individuals suffering from suicidal tendencies, violent outburst, or mental illness, and were surprised to learn that Twin Towers Correctional Facility was now mostly us as mental health facility and was highly monitored by the Department of Health. From inmates known as Trustees (inmates that are granted working privileges after demonstrating good behavior) that can be seen walking around wearing green, to the educational opportunities provided to all who are interested (not limited to a high school diploma equivalency and 25 different certification courses), to the separation and classification of inmates based on their offence, we saw as much as we could—and asked as many questions as they could handle—in our seemingly brief two-hour visit.
When it was over, we took advantage of a little one-on-one time with our Deputies, getting to know who they were and the reasons behind why they were working at the Twin Towers. At their encouragement—“We are an open book, ask us anything!”—we learned that one was a family man with four kids, the other was dating an LAPD officer, and both were hoping to transfer to a gang unit in East LA in the near future. They looked at their time at Twin Towers as experience and research. They viewed close interaction with the inmates as a learning experience, hoping to gain insider information into how the gang world worked on the outside so that they would be better trained to address it. They were knowledgeable and passionate, and in a world where social media often paints law enforcement in a not-so-bright light, they were also entirely approachable. As one of them said, “The badge doesn’t make me who I am or tells me how to act, my name does. I do what I do so that I am proud to carry my father’s name.”
We stepped out into the sunlight—phew!—and dined on the beach at El Segundo Beach Café. Conversation topics ranged from the contrast between what we saw at Twin Towers and how the jail system is portrayed in the media to our favorite places to volunteer and the Leadership Academy program as a whole. With each class focusing on a different aspect of the inner workings of the LAX Coastal community, participants are often introduced to impactful leaders and influential organizations they weren’t familiar with before. Growing as a leader isn’t always about enhancing your professional skills, it’s also about growing your knowledge about the world around you and the community you live in. As a Chamber of Commerce, we are lucky to have had more than 60 years to build relationships within our region, and each year we are excited for the chance to share them with our Leadership Academy participants. From tours of City Hall to LAX to the Hyperion Treatment Plant—our next stop on today’s journey—you see them all when you join the LAX Coastal Leadership Academy.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Hyperion Treatment Plant is a water reclamation plant that deals with LAX Coastal sewage (and beyond). Treating an average of 275 million gallons of water per day, the Hyperion is a necessary, valuable, and often underappreciated resource. It is also one of the most fascinating tours someone can take within our neighborhood.
Our tour started off with a one-on-many presentation by our amazing tour guide, Nancy, a woman who is such a bundle of energy and information that she borders on intimidating, but is also entirely likeable. She regales us with such facts as the plant’s first opening in 1894, how the plant is currently producing 80% of its electricity usage on-site through steam and methane production, and that it was possible to “scrub” air to remove bad smells (through chemicals, bacteria, and environmental conditions). She took us on a tram ride through the plant grounds, pointing out the award-winning architecture where old pipes fuse almost seamlessly with new, brightly-painted buildings. From older beige buildings to newer orange facilities, to light blue pipes (fresh water) comingling with bright white pipes (air scrubber system), the Hyperion plant is both larger and more vibrant than one would expect of a company that deals with sewage. As we drove between the buildings, were felt as if we were part of a small city—complete with moving traffic, stop signs, and patrolled by LAPD, no less—rather than a treatment plant.
In between the ocean and hills of green, we toured the large pools where finely-strained water is separated from the last of its “scum” (technical term) and is deemed clean enough for local wildlife to land on its surface. We saw how some of their processes see extreme changes in temperature, leaving behind small pillars of ice even under the heat of the sun, and large empty pits where water could be diverted in case of an emergency, earning the team an extra 37 minutes (!) to handle the issue. We even saw their resident piece of public art, a three-dimensional diorama of abstract art made from recycled traffic signs representing the area.
The tram tour ended at the Sanitation Learning Center, where Nancy said adieu and multiple hands-on exhibits brought out the child in a room full of professionals. From a 3-on-3 recycling sorting game to a trash truck where you could pose as the driver, our class of leaders played and learned to their hearts content. Kirby signed an online pledge to save water—the binding contract of that agreement showing up in the form of a fish floating in the ocean bearing Kirby’s name—while the others learned fascinating tidbits like the average Angeleno uses up to 106 gallons of water per day. The most important fact we learned was that all of our efforts really do make a difference. Fresh water truly is a finite resource, as hard as that is to believe, so every act of conservation—from low flush toilets to taking shorter showers—can help humanity in the long run. As Nancy says, “Mother Earth can filter the water if we give it to her, but it takes time. And desalinization is an expensive process, from what I’ve heard. Our best option is to work smarter with what we have. Use less fresh water and recycle the dirty water. Treat it, not necessarily so that it’s potable, but so we can use it to irrigate crops and for other odd jobs. We don’t have to dump it into the ocean like we have in the past because then it’s gone. You can’t bring it back.”
In the end, maybe that’s the Leadership Academy lesson for the day: to make smarter decisions with the choices we are given. No matter how black-and-white the world seems, we are always left with a choice to be a better person and to leave behind a better world. The future is up to you.
It’s not easy for the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade committee to come up with a new parade theme, year after year, to help celebrate Independence Day. In the last eighteen years there have been tributes to America’s pastimes, songs, icons, heroes, patriotism and adventures, often leaving the volunteer-based committee scratching their heads when it comes to picking a new theme that will encourage participants to come up with creative, inspiring entries and floats. To help solve this issue, the parade committee is reaching out to the community to ask for their suggestions for the 2018 event.
“This is the third year we’ve reached out to the community for help to choose the theme, and we think it’s a fun way to encourage participation and get new, fresh perspectives,” said LAX Coastal Chamber President/CEO, Christina Davis. “We’ve received some great suggestions over the last few years and we appreciate the feedback on what people want to see at the parade.”
The Fourth of July Parade is hosted by the LAX Coastal Chamber and participants rely on the theme to help shape their ideas and the direction of their entries, which range from floats, marching bands and walking groups.
When participants really like a theme, it shows on parade day, according to event chair, Gwen Vuchsas.
“We never know ahead of time what theme will resonate with our entries, but it’s evident on the Fourth of July which groups really loved the theme,” said Vuchsas, who has chaired the event since its inception. “A good theme helps create a great parade. The committee loves to see how the entries interpret it, and we know the parade attendees do too.”
Those interested in participating in this year’s parade theme contest, are asked to email the parade committee at email@example.com by Friday, February 23 with contact info, a parade theme and a short paragraph explaining their suggestion.
All submissions will be reviewed by the committee, and the winner will receive a gift bag with parade swag and the opportunity for a family of four to ride in the 2018 LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade (conditions apply), taking place on Wednesday, July 4.
The committee is also accepting audition videos for those interested in singing the National Anthem at the event. It is a tradition to select a local singer to help kick-off the parade. Audition videos can be posted to the Chamber’s Facebook page at facebook.com/laxcoastal or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, April 6.
While everyone is encouraged to submit audition videos, preference is given to students who live or attend school in the LAX Coastal area, which includes Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey and Del Rey.
For more info on the parade or sponsorship opportunities, please call the Chamber office at (310) 645-5151, email email@example.com or visit laxcoastal.com/parade.
For those interested in receiving information about participating in the 2018 Fourth of July Parade, applications will be available in March.
With a new year comes a new LAX Coastal Leadership Academy class—the 11th Annual LAX Coastal Leadership Academy class, that is. And what does that mean? It means that I got to spend an evening with some great people on a boat.
Each year, our Leadership Academy program starts off with a bang by hosting the Leadership Academy Reunion and Interest Mixer Cruise. Past graduates mingle with potential participants aboard a Hornblower Cruises & Events yacht as we sail around the marina in style—with lots of laughter and drinks in hand. As I wandered between the decks I was greeted by plenty of familiar faces. Hugs and how are you’s were broken up with my endless questioning of “What year did you graduate?” as I did my best to pair up recent graduates with early-takers so that everyone could discuss who was the best class. Interested parties watched in amusement and intrigue as excited chatter arose over “What’s your leadership style?” and “When did they start touring the El Segundo Air Force Base?” While no official decision was made over the best Leadership Academy class, it was obvious from all involved that each year was a success.
We are proud to say that, for the past 10 years, every Leadership Academy graduate has walked away from the program with stronger skills to elevate their career and professional success. You don’t just need to take our word for it, however. Trisha Murakawa, of Murakawa Communications and a 2016-2017 Leadership Academy graduate, told us:
Leadership Academy gave us a close up and behind-the-scenes view of civic and community operations. We had meaningful discussions with high level policy makers at City Hall, the airport, the transportation operations center, wastewater treatment plant and with the top military leadership at the LA Air Force Base. The nine months went by way too fast and I wish I could do it all again!
Another recent graduate, Lu Casillas of Blend2Day, said:
The Leadership Program offered by LAX Coastal Chamber is time well spent. Was it worth the money? I can confirm that it definitely was! The course covered a lot of information, delivered in concise chunks that were easy to absorb. The structure was clear, logical, and effective. Obviously, a lot of thought and expertise went into designing it. But it wasn’t just about the new knowledge; the main benefits come from meeting leaders in the community and interacting with other participants.
The LAX Coastal Chamber is dedicated to making our area a dynamic place to live, work, and play, and that is why we are so strongly committed to our Leadership Academy program. This seven-course program (limited to only 25 participants per year) is created for those interested in helping to propel our area forward and to contribute to the progress of the LAX Coastal community—and if that sounds like you, we want you to participate. Registration is easy, just learn more on our website or give us a call at 310.645.5151 to ask questions.
The LAX Coastal Leadership Academy program is an investment into your success, and it is one that we promise you won’t regret taking—you’ll only regret missing out.
Learn more about Leadership Academy Facilitator, Dr. Kevin Walsh
Dr. Kevin Walsh is our Leadership Academy Facilitator. He is the Founder and CEO of Global Community Enrichment (GCE), a Facilitator/Coach for Living As A Leader and a Channel Partner at Ken Blanchard Companies. Kevin’s expertise includes leadership development, executive coaching, non-profit board development, strategic organizational effectiveness, facilitation, curriculum design and team-building. Kevin has worked with executives and leaders in organizations worldwide, including: Cartoon Network, The Wonderful Company, US Doctors for Africa, American Express, and JP Morgan Chase.
Kevin earned his Doctorate of Psychology in Organizational Management and Consulting from Phillips Graduate University. He teaches at Phillips Graduate University, Rollins College, Loyola Marymount University and College of the Canyons. GCE’s clients include The Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, FIJI Water, City of Hope and LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce.
Having maintained a “small town” feel for well over 70 years, the LAX Coastal region is special in so many ways. Nestled into the west side of the bustling city of Los Angeles, residents of this neighborhood are brought together each year through friendship, community, and the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade.
This annual American tradition is brought to you through the dedication and hard work of the LAX Coastal Chamber, the Parade Committee, and our volunteers. Each year we strive to deliver a fun, interactive, community-focused event in honor of our nation’s birthday, but our efforts alone are not enough. Through your generosity, this parade can thrive for years to come, continuing to provide an opportunity for neighbors to join together in celebration of both community and country.
Yes, we are asking you to help the parade. We know we are only as strong as the community we live in, so please help us keep this Westchester/Playa tradition alive.
It was the year 2000 and excitement was at an all-time high. The community was embracing a new century, full of bright futures and endless possibilities, and residents were coming together in celebration. The eyes of every man, woman, and child were bright as they relished the small-town feel of this big city in a new age, and local leaders were looking for an iconic event to help bring everyone together.
Westchester had already begun to celebrate the millennium, thanks to a series of events dubbed “The Gathering” and hosted by the Westchester/Playa del Rey Historical Society, but something larger was needed to commemorate such a momentous occasion. Historical Society President and longtime Westchester resident, Mary Lou Crockett, spearheaded the idea of a community parade. Needing a community partner to help bring this idea to life, the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce (formerly known as the Westchester/LAX Chamber of Commerce) jumped on board to help.
Then Chamber President, Gwen Vuchsas, worked with the inaugural parade committee to rally participants, volunteers, and sponsors that first year to celebrate America’s birthday under the theme, “A Community with a Kindred Spirit.” The committee worked tirelessly to produce an event worthy of this amazing community; they ensured streets were closed, signage was placed, announcer booths were set up, golf carts were rented, posters were printed, and more. On the morning of July 4th, each committee member was nervous, wondering if anyone would show up to what they believed to be Westchester’s first—and only—community parade. When thousands appeared, it was clear this was more than just a celebration of the year 2000; it was the start of a brand new Westchester tradition. This would be first of many LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parades!
Over the years, the parade has seen many faces. From themes recognizing “Hometown Heroes” (2005), “America’s Moments in History” (2007), or “LMU at 100” (2011), to including more than 50 parade entries, attracting more than 8,000 spectators, and printing a robust parade program (courtesy of the HomeTown News), this parade has truly grown since its inauguration. The parade committee, still spearheaded by Gwen Vuchsas and the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, is honored each year to watch the LAX Coastal community come together in a sea of red, white, and blue. It is said that true hometown events are rare in large cities, but through the dedication of local residents and businesses we can truly say that the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is our area’s version of a Norman Rockwell painting: proudly patriotic with community camaraderie, and a splash of happy smiles.
The LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is a tradition—our tradition—and we cannot wait to spend another year with you celebrating both community and country.
Happy Birthday, America!
From yours truly, Westchester.
Help us fill in the blanks! If you have any old parade posters, or know any missing parade themes, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday, July 4, 2017, the LAX Coastal neighborhood will come together in a sea of red, white, and blue to celebrate America’s birthday: the 18th Annual LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade.
We are excited to announce this year’s theme, “An American Adventure.” Inspired by a local, 10-year old resident, this parade theme represents both the extraordinary and everyday adventures we all share. From surfing to paddleboarding, biking to hiking, jogging to bird-watching, each day is a new adventure just waiting to be discovered. This year, we want to see what your#AmericanAdventure is, so we are looking for entertaining entries to show this community what excites you about living in these United States.
We are all proud to call America our home, so please join us at this year’s parade to share the memories, pastimes, and daily adventures we have as citizens of this great country.
Become a Sponsor
Sponsoring the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is one of the best ways to engage and support your community. Sponsorship opportunities are available from $10,000-$500, with all contributions appreciated. Learn more.
Participate in the Parade
The Parade Committee is looking for engaging and interactive floats and parade entries to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Entries can pay tribute to adventurous pastimes, honor national monuments, celebrate national parks, or pay homage however the theme speaks to them. Learn more.
My alarm goes off at a brisk 6:45am. For some people, the strange clan known as morning people, I hear that this is a lovely time of day where mist is rising off the asphalt and the sun is brimming over the horizon, just starting to warm the air. The city is quiet and those awake can enjoy a sense of peace that is difficult to grasp during the hustle and bustle of a day at work. For me… Well, I am not a morning person.
As I wipe the sleep from my eyes before getting behind the wheel of my vehicle, I can at least enjoy a sense of excitement about today’s schedule. You see, I am awake at this ungodly hour for a very specific reason, and that is Leadership Academy. While the LAX Coastal Leadership Academy as a whole is truly an amazing program, today is the morning of Session 5: Public Safety and the Environment, and it is my personal favorite. So, as I walk through the doors of the chamber office, meeting and greeting my fellow LA participants and stifling the jealousy I feel over their bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed mannerisms, I know I am ready to begin what is going to be a good day.
After everyone has had a chance to grab a quick coffee and granola breakfast—and I have been reminded at least 3 times that the water is in Judith’s car (thank you, Judith!)—we make our way onto our chartered bus to begin our Downtown journey to Session 5’s first stop: the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.
The time is 9:15am. As we drive down Bauchet Street I am reminded that each year we are incredibly optimistic regarding traffic when, in reality, we are late (mental note: reschedule our tour to at least 9:20am for next year). I turn in my seat at the front of the bus to address the class, reminding them that all personal affects, except for a valid ID, are to be left behind in the care of Jose, our guardian for the day (AKA bus driver). And yes, that does include cell phones. Confession time: I love any excuse to leave my cell phone behind, but not all adults share my enthusiasm. Each year I watch a bus full of professionals balk at the idea of parting from their devices, as if someone has asked them to chop off a limb and walk away. You understand, right? Our reliance on technology these days has made it almost impossible to function without some sort of handheld device—even though I enjoy leaving my phone behind, I always experience at least 3 moments where I am upset at my inability to google something—but Twin Towers is not the place where cell phones are needed. Ladies and gentlemen, no flash photography please, this is not a photo op.
We leave our personal belongings with Jose, a stand-up gentleman that I have known for all of about 45 minutes, and walk into jail. With a quick head count of “…15, 16, 17, all here!” we meet our contact, Lieutenant Johnson of the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station, and begin the check-in process. After IDs had been collected and waivers had been signed, Lt. Johnson headed back to the office and left us in the hands of our Twin Tower’s tour guide, an extremely charismatic fellow who started the orientation process by asking us what we would do if an inmate suddenly sucker punched us in the face.
No, I am not kidding.
The correct answer here, for those that are wondering, is to fight back, but after a few uneasy laughs and one fantastic answer (I’ll leave the details up to your imagination), I reminded the class that in the 10 years the LAX Coastal Chamber has hosted Leadership Academy, no participant has ever been assaulted. While the question might have seemed intimidating, one thing I was grateful for was that it opened the eyes of our attendees and reminded them that yes, this was a tour to help inform them of the inner workings of our city, but it was still a jail. This was not going to the zoo, this was not touring a college you were interested in attending, this was an informative guide through one of Los Angeles’ public systems that was to be taken seriously and treated with respect. And, just like every other year, we understood.
As we were guided through the concrete halls of Twin Towers, we learn more about the inner workings of our jail system. From inmates known as Trustees (those due to be released in the next few months and trusted enough to perform basic services around the building) that can be seen walking around wearing green, to the educational opportunities provided to all who are interested (that include, but are not limited to, a high school diploma equivalency and 25 different certification courses), this tour is definitely eye-opening and nothing like Orange is the New Black. We even had the opportunity to speak to a female inmate who was due to be released in April 2018 for a non-violent offense. She had personally completed all educational courses available to her—side note: she said that the therapy course that helped her identify the true reasons as to why she committed an offense in the first place was the best course she had attended and highly recommended it to her fellow inmates—and was offered an early release due to exemplary behavior and work credits. She even taught us how women handled a lack of makeup on “the inside” that involved melting down leftover pencil eyeliner and mixing it with clear toothpaste to create a liquid liner that could then be applied with a sharpened #2 pencil… Yes, we were also amazed.
We were given tours of modules, a collection of 3 rooms that hold roughly 44 inmates each and was under constant monitoring by a group of officers, learned how colors were used to identify specific individuals suffering from suicidal tendencies, violent outburst, or mental illness, and were surprised to learn that Twin Towers Correctional Facility was now mostly us as mental health facility and was highly monitored by the Department of Health. Before we knew it, it was 10:55am and yet again time to meet our stand-up guy, Jose. Cutting the tour short brought groans of disappointment from my fellow Leadership Academy participants, proving that sometimes going to jail can be a good experience (but let’s stick to experiencing it from the outside, shall we?). We thanked our guide, walked back down the concrete halls where we were given back our IDs (phew!), and boarded back onto our bus.
The smells and sounds of the surf greeted us as we disembarked Jose’s carriage, joining on the sunlit patio of the El Segundo Beach Café. As I take my seat I remember that I try to tell myself every year that this place exists, and yet on the other 364 days I am not participating in Leadership Academy’s fifth session I often forget about this hidden gem. The view is phenomenal, the food delicious, and how can you dislike a place that reminds you when it’s time to eat dessert? We sat beneath the sun as we ate our freshly prepared turkey burgers and talked about our morning experiences, enjoying the freedom that was allowed to us as outside viewers to the jail system (rather than more permanent residents). After stories were told and food comas were given ample time to settle in, we took a few moments to enjoy the views of our amazing LAX Coastal neighborhood.
[insert a few moments of silence here]
Ahhhh… Wasn’t that nice? Look at the time; it’s 12:50pm and time for us to head to the next stop on today’s adventure: the Hyperion Treatment Plant across the street (literally, across the street).
For those who don’t know, the Hyperion Treatment Plant is a water reclamation plant that deals with LAX Coastal sewage (and beyond). Treating an average of 275 million gallons of water per day, the Hyperion might sound like a crappy job (hah!) but is actually a valuable resource and one of the most fascinating tours someone can take within our neighborhood.
Our tour started off with a one-on-many presentation by our amazing tour guide, a woman who is such a bundle of energy and information that she borders on intimidating, but is also entirely likeable. She regales us with such facts as the plant’s first opening in 1894, how the plant is currently producing 80% of its electricity usage on-site through steam and methane production (and in the next few years will increase that number to 100%!), and that it was possible to “scrub” air to remove bad smells. We were given fashionable hair nets and hard hats, climbed aboard a train of golf carts, and began our scenic drive around the plant.
The most striking thing about the Hyperion tour was the architecture. The juxtaposition of old versus new plus industrial was surprisingly pleasing, with colorful buildings inspired by the plant’s current infrastructure helping to make the pipelines running through the grounds seem at home rather than out of place. From older beige buildings to newer orange facilities, to light blue pipes (fresh water) comingling with bright white pipes (air scrubber system), the Hyperion plant is both larger and more vibrant than one would expect of a company that deals with sewage. And, with hills of green on one end and the ocean on the other, their surroundings aren’t half bad either.
We were allowed a closer look at different points in the tour to help us better understand the inner workings of our sewage. In one (if we are being honest, smelly) room, we saw water in its “natural state” as it first arrives to the plant. The water travels through different channels where it is separated by a large combing device aimed at separating large particles from the waste water, and many of us were shocked to see that some of the items most commonly flushed down our toilets included banana peels, Cheetos bags, and Lysol wipes (none of which are biodegradable, by the way, so please do your local water treatment plant a favor by being kinder to your waste system). We also saw the large pools where finely-strained water is separated from the last of its “scum”—technical term—and is deemed clean enough for local wildlife to alight on its surface. The best part of the tour (spoiler alert) was the Sanitation Learning Center at the end of our drive, with a hands-on exhibit that helped bring out the child in a room full of professionals. From a 3-on-3 recycling sorting game to a trash truck where you could pose as the driver, our class of leaders played and learned to their hearts content. Kirby signed an online pledge to save water—the binding contract of that agreement showing up in the form of a fish floating in the ocean bearing Kirby’s name—while the others learned fascinating tidbits like the average Angeleno uses up to 106 gallons of water per day. We explored, we mashed buttons, we spun levers, and then we headed on back to the bus, and the lovely Jose, to end our day at the Ballona Wetlands.
The parking lot close to the alley behind Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant might not be a secret, but the entrance gate painted with a brilliantly colored heron surely is. That gate is the entrance to the Ballona Wetlands, currently protected by the Friends of Ballona Wetlands nonprofit organization.
The tour starts as we walk past a recreation of a Tongva hut, the tribe that lived in the LAX Coastal region long before we did. We don’t stop here as we have in years past, as the display is sadly under construction due to extreme weather conditions that were just a little bit too much for the structure (we might be able to study the Tongva tribe, but we are not as skilled at building…). We pause for a moment in the trail, admiring a cottontail rabbit bouncing along the path, before grabbing our binoculars and learning more about the wetland’s boundaries. Once covering the majority of our region, the wetlands today are sadly only 577-acres and in desperate need of protection. They are the home to a variety of animals; from Green Herons to King Snakes to 2 adorable Willets that enjoyed a game of tag on our watch, the wetlands is a delicate ecosystem where even one cubic foot of the mud that lines their marsh can hold up to 40,000 living organisms.
As we made our way to the viewing platform, we sucked on lemonade berries and perfumed ourselves with cowboy cologne (aka California Sage), taking in the sights and enjoying a beautiful day in Playa del Rey. We were slightly disappointed to realize that our tour was scheduled during low tide, as the wetland’s water level ebbs and flows roughly every 6 hours, but we were happy to see that our recent influx of rain created a sort of tide pool in the marsh, attracting geese, ducks, and birds of all sizes. We sat in the sun, listened to our tour guide describe his hysterical adventures as a protector of this natural wonder, and fought the urge to take a nap in the middle of the greens, blues, and yellows of our surroundings. We experienced a sense of peace probably akin to what those aforementioned “morning people” did when they awoke before the sun, even though the time was 3:55pm in the middle of the work week. Maybe peace was something you found on your own schedule; something that had nothing to do with the time of day or even where you are, but rather your state of mind. Well, the state of mind that each Leadership Academy participant was in atop the wooden structure in the middle of our very own wetlands was definitely one of relaxation, and although many of us were tired after a long, albeit fun, day, our smiles never flagged.
It was 4pm, and time for us to head back to the LAX Coastal Chamber. The day was not yet done, as more than half of our class was planning on meeting up for happy hour after dismissal, but Leadership Academy Session 5 was officially closed. We were a few hours older but infinitely wiser than when we woke up this morning, full of knowledge and experience that we were lucky enough to have provided to us by our local chamber, and we could not be more grateful.
Thank you, LAX Coastal Chamber! Now who’s ready for a drink?
The LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to making our area a dynamic place to work, live, and play, and that is why we are so strongly committed to our Leadership Academy Program. With registration opening for our 2016-17 class just last month, consider this your personal invitation to learn more about this exciting program before it officially begins on Thursday, November 10.
This seven-course program (limited to only 25 participants) is created for those who are interested in helping propel our area forward and to contribute to the progress of the LAX Coastal community. Leadership Academy aims to engage emerging leaders, inspire established leaders, and develop lasting professional connections with fellow participants and is facilitated by Dr. Kevin Walsh. Dr. Walsh is the CEO of Global Community Enrichment and a Consulting Associate at Ken Blanchard Companies, with experience in leadership development, executive coaching, non-profit board development, strategic organizational effectiveness, facilitation, curriculum design and teambuilding. With previous clients such as The Walt Disney Company and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, we believe it is a testament to this program that Dr. Walsh has chosen to facilitate it yet again during it’s 10th year.
From November to May, Leadership Academy participants will engage in monthly one-day courses designed to educate, evaluate, and enhance personal growth. This program will help develop and nurture leadership skills, all while exploring the local political landscape and rich history of the area.
These courses will familiarize business leaders with information regarding the inner workings of our government, as well as key economic areas, including LAX and Marina del Rey. The program provides participants the rare opportunity to meet and interact with political officials, public safety officers, and industry leaders to learn about the various issues that affect the LAX Coastal area and Los Angeles as a whole. More key curriculum includes: information on economic development, communication styles and tactics, government policy, environmental consciousness, civic involvement, and much more.
Successful graduates of the Academy program receive four semester units of Professional Development credit from Loyola Marymount University’s Continuing Education Department and a certificate in Leadership Training & Development from LMU Extension, as well as a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Leadership Academy, an LAX Coastal Chamber program aimed at developing and enhancing the leadership skills of local professionals, had a successful 5th session on Thursday, March 17 as they learned more about “Public Safety and the Environment.”
Starting with a first-hand tour of the Twin Tower Correctional Facility, participants learned more about local safety issues and the way our Los Angeles jail system works. This tour featured such tidbits as: did you know that Twin Towers Jail is primarily a psychiatric facility, helping inmates with mental health issues through medication and counseling? And that they host a program to help female inmates earn their GED or High School Diploma? Following the jail tour, Leadership Academy headed to the beach for lunch, hosted by proud Chamber Member the El Segundo Catering Company.
The educational day continued with a tour of the Hyperion Treatment Plant to find out what happens to our communities sewage. While the topic sounds a little smelly (and indeed, parts of the tour were as well) it was extremely informative and even a little beautiful, as the outdoor plant featured modern architecture on a blue-sky day. The tour warned against dumping non-trash items down your toilet, shower, or sink as all of them end up in the sewer and have to be manually extracted, also showed the “life-cycle” of our communities water. Interested in learning more? The Hyperion Treatment Plant offers free tours and has an Environmental Learning Center.
Finally, the class ended in our very own backyard with a private tour of the Ballona Wetlands, hosted by the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, that included a snake sighting, some delicious lemonade berries, and a beautiful 360 view of the entire wetlands (albeit not very wet due to our drought, unfortunately).
Looking to become a Leadership Academy participant next year? Contact the LAX Coastal Chamber for more details at 310.645.5151.