CALABASAS, Calif. – You don’t need to speak a specific language to understand how awesome a mountain lion is. But if the facts presented by the National Park Service were only in English, a lot of visitors would be left out of the conversation.
“We actually have many different rangers speaking at least two languages," said Xochitl Lopez.
People may not realize it, Lopez says, but many of the programs and guided tours offered in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are also available in Spanish – sometimes simultaneously.
“Instead of having one separate for each language, we’ll kind of just see what our audience is and we will accommodate to them, if it’s purely Spanish or we’ll do bilingual," Lopez said.
As a Park Ranger Interpreter, Lopez loves her office.
"This is basically my backyard now," Lopez said.
She gets to interact with a lot of visitors and wants to spread the word that everyone is welcome here. She stressed that "this is a safe place and that this is their park.”
To that end, this summer the National Park Service held what they are calling the first annual Nuestras Montañas. The message: “Queridos Angelenos, la ciudad es tu casa. Las montañas tu hogar," Lopez read off one of the signs. "In English that is: Dear Angelenos, the city is your house. The mountains are your home.”
Five-year-old Diego certainly he felt at home among the educational activities. In fact, he kind of wanted to take some of the items home with him, like a sample of baby mountain lion fur.
“It’s super-duper soft because I want to snuggle with it in my bed," Diego said.
In addition to programming in Spanish, the National Park Service is also working on translating more of their signage into different languages. It’s on ongoing effort and so is the campaign to let all Angelenos know about the incredible resource.
“Because a lot of people don’t know – especially people from L.A. – that their closest national park is within at least hours drive," Lopez said.
A short enough distance to make the mountains your home away from home.