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Nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative, according to a book the city of Santa Clarita has been promoting as part of the “One Story One City” month-long program in March. As such, city Councilwoman Marsha McLean invited veterans on Wednesday to the Placerita Canyon Nature Center to get in touch with the rural roots of the area. 

Author Florence Williams’ book “The Nature Fix,” about nature’s restorative benefits, is this year’s focus for “One Story One City,” the Friends of the Santa Clarita Library’s annual program that encourages citywide discussion with a selected story each year. When McLean read the book, she said she thought about how so many veterans suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety, and how bringing awareness to the peacefulness found in the natural world in the Santa Clarita Valley could have very positive effects. 

“The book talked about how people get rejuvenated and blood pressure goes down and anxiety goes down whenever they make regular trips out into nature to kind of get away from the city,” McLean told The Signal. “And it also talked about veterans and how many veterans don’t seem to suffer or don’t want to talk about PTSD or anxiety and depression in their daily life.” 

McLean had notified the veterans organizations in the area about the gathering she hosted on Wednesday, and while the turnout was small, the councilwoman hopes to do something like this again, she said, on a weekend when more people might be more willing and able to come out. 

During the event, several docents from the Placerita Canyon Nature Center showed off the wildlife that call the center their home. Among those were an owl, an American crow and a California tarantula. The animals the docents shared with visitors reside on site, as they have conditions such as broken bones that, according to Herb Brout, one of the docents, wouldn’t give them much chance to survive in the wild. 

Docent-naturalists, Jack Levenberg ,left,with a 15-year-old great horned owl named Sierra and Denny Truger, right, displays a female red-tailed hawk named Aiyana during a presentation held at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Wednesday, 033022. Dan Watson/The Signal
A docent-naturalist describes the unique adaptations of an alligator lizard named Bubba at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Wednesday, 033022. Dan Watson/The Signal

Guest Sharon Ventrice and her husband Bob, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army, said they go to almost every veteran event in the area that they can. 

“This is one of the most veteran-friendly communities around,” Sharon said. Both spent the better part of an hour at the center on Wednesday. 

Placerita Canyon Nature Center is a California State Park located on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains off Placerita Canyon Road. The park includes hiking trails, a variety of natural and historic sites, interactive nature exhibits and the Walker cabin, a restored and furnished 1920s structure. 

“Once somebody comes out here once,” McLean told guests, “I’m hoping that they’ll continue to come out here because you need to keep doing it in order to help heal yourself.” 

The Placerita Canyon Nature Center is set to host an open house between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. The event will include family hikes, crafts and games, panning for fool’s gold, musical entertainment and animal presentations like those on Wednesday. 

For more information, go to placerita.org

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