Bruce Saito, Los Angeles Conservation Corps


The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org

The L.A. Conservation Corps (LACC) provides at-risk youths with opportunities for success through job skills training, education, and work experience. As part of the collaborative, the L.A. Conservation Corps will be installing signage and other amenities along the L.A. River:



My name is Bruce Saito. I am the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps is a 27 year old private nonprofit, and our mission is to provide job training, work experience and educational opportunities for young folks as they in turn provide community and environmental services all throughout Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area.

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Well the roots of the L.A. Conservation Corps go way back to the Civilian Conservation Corps. A slightly different situation but you know in some ways it is the same. In the post-depression days President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was pretty simple: it was to employ thousands of young boys whose families were destitute. So again what better way to put young folks to work serving their country by planting millions of trees, restoring watersheds, developing parks all across the nation.

There is this terrible statistic in Los Angeles that 1 out of 5 16-24 year olds are unemployed, don't have a job and haven't finished their high school diploma. So that's kind of our pool of very interested young folk that come to us looking for the work experience and at the same time want to complete their high school diploma.

Placemaking for me is personality, it is something special, like an arts district, whether it is a particular area along the river it is the identity. It could be a small pocket park or a small little strip of the river, it could be a rest stop or again something very unique to that area, a certain place that has personality all onto itself.

March Street as an example, this is a community where the L.A. Conservation Corps actually built a park a number of years ago, and it's got this beautiful serpent that runs through it, it is a water retention, we built permeable surfaces, the water runs down into the surfaces and retains that stormwater runoff, it is not in an impoverished neighborhood but in many ways an underserved neighborhood and not by coincidence then the Los Angeles Neighbor Land Trust worked with the L.A. Conservation Corps to build a skate park next to the park and so those kind of activities, those kind of placemaking things have brought the community out, have got people engaged and given people a great sense of pride for their community and for their neighborhood for this place.

The tree canopy project works with our corps members and the collaboration to survey and canvas the area and identify where there needs to be canopy tree coverage along and nearby the river. So we actually get the young folks out, walk in the neighborhood, get down on the street and down on the ground and actually survey and identify where there's a lack of tree canopy or tree protection.

So from the survey and from the analysis that the Conservation Corps do to identify where the L.A. River is lacking tree, tree coverage or tree canopy, then we'll take that, we have some existing programs but we'll develop and create new programs and actually plant the trees. This collaborative effort won't actually start or develop or start new projects like the construction of a park, but it will be the impetus or the support or rationale for either creating those grants or leverage or finding out where there is resources to do those kind of projects.

If the work is done productively, efficiently and effectively then the hard work that we are doing now will sustain itself, not just for the next year, but for many many years to come.


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