Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour of Ballona Discovery Park – An Earth Day Celebration!

In celebration of Earth Day, the Center for Urban Resilience at Loyola Marymount University (LMU CURes) and Friends of Ballona Wetlands hosted the annual Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden Tour in Ballona Discovery Park on Saturday, April 15, 2023 where we had over 250 visitors!

The sun came out and our flowers shined; folks learned about native medicinal plants from healer Enrique Villasenor (coauthor of “Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West”); enjoyed seeing books available from our local brick and mortar bookstore, The Book Jewel, a personal passion project of Karen Dial, President of the Drollinger Charitable Family Foundation; and were able to meet the donor of the Swimmer Medicinal Garden, Mike Swimmer and family.

We were also joined by the artist who created the Tongva Monument, honoring his Gabrielino Tongva people and all of humanity, Robert Dorame and his wife Jan. Robert also brought a beautiful Coast Live Oak tree to be planted in the Park, as a gift!

LMU and UCLA students, trained about the Park and its assets, participated as Docents along with staff of Friends of Ballona Wetlands and LMU CURes, who are responsible for maintaining the plants and other features of the Park. We are so grateful for all these participants making our first time on the Theodore Payne garden tour, celebrating their 20th year offering these unique experiences, a huge success!

The theme was the healing power of plants and people, both Enrique and Robert shared their expertise on the uses of native plants by local indigenous Indian tribes (Gabrielino/Tongva, Chumash, and Cahuilla), and Mike Swimmer shared how his brother, the late Dr. David Swimmer, a Western Medicine trained physician who opened a clinic for the poor in Santa Barbara, began using medicinal plants, historically utilized by the Chumash in the Santa Barbara area, to treat his patients. Sean Moor, Manager of The Book Jewel, provided the literary touch, sharing books and items available for sale in this oneofakind bookstore in Westchester.

The Park has been open to the public for 12 years, and the partnership between LMU, Playa Vista, and the nonprofit, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, that sued the developer to save as much of the Ballona Wetlands as possible, was celebrated by all who walked through the 2 acre Park. 

This unique partnership demonstrates the ability of organizations to work through their differences and find commonality in showcasing the history of the Ballona Wetlands and Watershed, and the plants that define them. Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and LMU professors organized by the Center, lead students of all ages through the Park, offering internships and work study opportunities as part of their education programs and research projects, as well as guiding local and international visitors every year to Experience Ballona!” The Park’s tag line is: “Neighborhood Wellness Begins Here”, and the partners live up to that saying by taking care of this unique treasure in the community of Playa Vista below the LMU Bluff.

Eric Strauss, Executive Director of the Park, said, “The opportunity for us to represent the Theodore Payne Foundation is a wonderful moment for our Center, the University and our extraordinary partners in this venture. With the unflagging efforts of a team led by Lisa Fimiani, our students, LMU marketing and communications, plus our donors and indigenous leaders such as Robert Dorame, we were able to demonstrate the very best of our garden and the University. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort.