HUNTINGTON PARK : Club's Green Idea Grows on Council

With a little water and a lot of sweat, a small group of Huntington Park High School students hope to transform an arid, empty lot into a lush garden and provide a lesson on the environment for their community.

The students, members of the school's environmental club, have won City Council approval to adopt a 68-by-100-foot plot at 6219 Bissell St. The property, which is under power lines, is owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power but is managed by the city. Huntington Park officials will approve the type and location of plants before the group begins work.

"It's a good win-win for both the city and the people on Bissell Street," said Bill Rieffanaugh, the city's director of Parks and Recreation. "My concern was that the project would create a lot more work for my department, but (the club members) say they'll take care of it indefinitely."

The students see the project as a way to better their part of the world and "be part of the solution," said club adviser Jeff Goldberg.

Angela Santana, the club's president, said her group is taking on a lot more than just an empty lot. Club members are fighting apathy and environmental racism, the 17-year-old said.

"All the bad stuff, like factories and chemical spills, are where the poor people are," said Angela, a senior. "They don't have things like that where rich people live. In poor places, people are more concerned about how to pay for food and the bills" than the environment.

"People need to realize that they're worrying about so many other things, but the most important thing is our planet," Angela added. "It's all we have and they should worry about that."

The club also conducts cleanups along the Pacific Boulevard business district, plants trees on campus and is planning a recycling drive to raise money for a scholarship fund.

The group is seeking donations of plants from Tree People, a Los Angeles-based environmental group, and will apply to the Southern California Gas Co. for a grant to buy more greenery and supplies, Goldberg said.

The project may raise the club's profile in the community, but Angela said she doubts it will attract classmates to their cause.

"To tell the truth, a lot of people don't care," she said. "They think they're too young to worry about things like that."

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