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L.A. River Getting Mobile Visitor Center

The modified recreational vehicle, which is expected to be completed in April, will feature interactive exhibits and travel to schools and community events.

A mobile visitor center for the Los Angeles River is getting support from the federal government as part of an initiative to teach Los Angeles youth about nature, Mayor Eric Garcetti and federal officials announced today.

The River Rover, which is funded and operated by the nonprofit Friends of the Los Angeles River, is one of eight pilot projects around the country benefiting from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative.

The modified recreational vehicle, which is expected to be completed in April, will feature interactive exhibits and travel to schools and community events.

Garcetti joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Franklin High School students at Los Angeles State Historic Park to announce the designation of the Los Angeles-based program as part of the initiative's pilot round.

The mayor touted the news, saying "giving city kids access to outdoor experiences and exercise will undoubtedly make a lasting impact."

Jewell said the partnership with the Friends of the Los Angeles River "will allow us to bring young people to the river and the river to young people."

Friends of the Los Angeles River's director of education programs, Shelly Backlar, said the nonprofit began its partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last February.

The agency is lending its resources and wildlife experts to the mobile visitor center, she said, adding that the designation "could potentially work for us to get additional funding for the project."

The River Rover is currently funded by a donation to the Friends of the Los Angeles River, she said.

Backlar said the project was chosen because federal officials are looking to reach urban areas and "given that Los Angeles has such a densely populated space, the river has the ability to educate not just kids, but the general public."

Andrew Yuen with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the federal agency will help Friends of the Los Angeles River apply for grant funding for the River Rover and other efforts that teach Los Angeles residents about their river's ecosystem.

Projects in Houston, Albuquerque, Chicago, Baltimore and other cities were among the eight chosen for the initiative.

—City News Service

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