Ballona Discovery Park

Ballona Discovery Park is a two-acre native garden and wildlife habitat that serves as an outdoor laboratory for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level science education.

Ballona Discovery Park Activities

Instructor explaining a type of flower to younger students
Lisa Fimiani (CURes Dan & Susan Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow) leads a tour of the Park.

Staff members from CURes and our partners (LMU, Friends of Ballona WetlandsHeal the Bay, and The Bay Foundation), conduct tours, formal classes, teacher training workshops and research laboratories at the park on an on-going basis.

These activities benefit students of LMU, neighboring Playa Vista Elementary School, and over a dozen other public and private schools in the region.

In addition to students, a range of community groups, spiritual organizations, religious groups, urban planners, and nature enthusiasts take tours of the Park.

It is also a venue for visual artists, meditative retreats and other organized gatherings.

Accessing the Park

The Park is conveniently located near bus stops, a bicycle path, and major transit corridors. Seniors, young children, and individuals with physical disabilities and/or limited mobility have access to transit, are able to park in well-marked parking areas, and can easily move about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant wheelchair-accessible Park. The nearby 7-mile Ballona Creek Bike Path links bicyclists to the Pacific Ocean Bike Path that goes from the Pacific Palisades to Palos Verdes.

Hours & Services

Ballona Discovery Park is open from dawn until dusk and serves the local community with Ballona Wetlands history, native plant gardens and wildlife viewing opportunities. The Park is also open at night for special occasions. We provide informal science learning activities including interpretive stations, a walkable model watershed ecosystem, and a re-creation of a native Tongva Gabrielino gathering house, known as a kiiy or mah-mah-har-ke(ch), with audio recordings of Native American Tongva Gabrielino stories. No admission is charged for entry into the Park. 

COVID-19 Virtual Tours

If COVID-19 restrictions are in place, preventing gatherings of 8 or more people in public settings, we are offering a “virtual” tour of Ballona Discovery Park. You can enjoy the Park on your computer from the comfort of your own home. CURes staff members will take you through a presentation about the Park online with time for questions and comments. While it’s not the same as being there, you may be surprised at what you can learn. Please contact Lisa Fimiani for times when the next virtual tour will take place.

Park Features

Young students observing plants
Students visit the Park and record their observations, building scientific skills.

In 2011, CURes and Friends of Ballona Wetlands began running new outdoor environmental education programs in Ballona Discovery Park utilizing interpretive and interactive panels describing the Times, Tides and Transformations of the Ballona Watershed. The two organizations have been partnering ever since to expand the educational programs through funding sources engaging urban ecology students from LMU, as well as students from universities across the world. Park features include:

  • Representational model of a watershed
  • Amphitheater for presentations
  • Picnic area
  • Student gardens
  • Riparian Corridor Trail
  • Tongva Monument
  • Founders' Monument
  • Watershed Walk: Takes visitors through an estuary, mountains, city, freshwater, saltwater, mudflat, lagoon, ocean, before water from the mountains reaches the sea
  • Willow Walk: Leads visitors from Watershed Walk to the entrance of a Tongva Gabrielino kiiy or mah-mah-har-ke(ch). In the kiiy, recordings of a Native American actress and singer tell stories about our Indigenous Ancestors, weaving together the history of Ballona Wetlands and the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Tongva Monument

In July 2021, representatives from Playa Vista, Loyola Marymount University, and Friends of Ballona Wetlands joined Robert Dorame, Tribal Chairman and Most Likely Descendant of the Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California, to inaugurate the Tongva Memorial in Ballona Discovery Park. The monument honors the Tongva people from the village of Guashna, where Playa Vista now sits. The Tongva Monument is a treasure to visitors who come from all over the world.  As Robert Dorame said, “This Monument is for all people, it is dedicated to our ancestors and future human life on earth.”

To view more information about the Tongva Monument, please click here to view our blog post

Founders' Monument

In October 2021, The Founders' Monument was unveiled in Ballona Discovery Park. The Founders' Monument is a bronze relief sculpture commemorating founders of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, who were responsible for halting development and ultimately saving the Ballona Wetlands from destruction. The sculpture depicts the founding members gathering in a stylized land that encompasses the six main ecosystems of the Ballona Wetlands. The plaque was inspired by the founding members’ children, in appreciation of their parent’s visionary environmentalism and determination to save the Ballona Wetlands for future generations.

To view more information about the Founders' Monument, please click here to view our blog post

Gardens

A garden with various flowers
Ballona Discovery Park offers a range of native Southern California gardens to enjoy.

A walk through the Ballona Discovery Park reveals gardens with a range of different palettes of native Southern California plants.

These riparian plants, trees, and coastal sage scrub tell the visitor a story about this ecosystem.

The local elementary school next door, Playa Vista Elementary School, has adopted the Pollinator Garden at the entrance of the Park.

The Pollinator Garden showcases plants from the Southwest that attract birds and beneficial insects and teaches the students about the symbiotic nature of flora and fauna in this setting.

Swimmer Medicinal Garden

Swimmer Medicinal Garden

The Swimmer Medicinal Garden was originally planted in 2011 and recently renovated in 2018.

This Garden showcases Southern California native plants that were used by the Chumash, Tongva, and Cahuilla Indigenous Indian tribes for their healing properties.

The Swimmer Medicinal Garden is dedicated to Dr. David Swimmer by his brother and the Swimmer family.

Dr. Swimmer was a physician in Santa Barbara who pioneered the use of medicinal plants to treat his patients holistically at his clinic for the underserved.

Partners

Friends of Ballona Wetlands

Friends of Ballona Wetlands has a long history of providing environmental education programs at the Park; their educational modules have engaged thousands of visitors over 40 years. LMU and Friends of Ballona Wetlands have worked as a team on education and restoration projects for over 30 years in the Ballona Discovery Park and nearby Ballona Freshwater Marsh.

The Gottlieb Native Garden (GNG)

The Gottlieb Native Garden has funded Park activities, outreach, and educational initiatives, as well as other CURes activities. Additionally, the Gottlieb Native Garden, located in Beverly Hills, serves as a site for individuals to learn about and experience Southern California native plants and the fauna that depends upon them.

The Bay Foundation (TBF)

The Bay Foundation is a long-term partner of CURes and supports the activities of the Park. Their scientific and educational work complements the activities of the Park and enhances visitors' experiences.

Bus Scholarships

We provide many underserved schools with bus scholarship opportunities for their students to be able to participate in joint education programs offered through CURes and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.