07/08/2010 08:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Reclaiming Open Spaces in Our Urban Landscape

President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative to develop a conservation and recreation agenda that would use community-based solutions to reconnect Americans with our country's bountiful natural surroundings.

Today, that plan came to Los Angeles, and I was fortunate to attend a listening session for the Great Outdoors Initiative with top White House officials at Occidental College. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Chair of the White House Council on Enviormental Quality Nancy Sutley and other top officials were on hand to speak with Angelenos about creating green spaces and improving our quality of life.

And what a difference an election makes! These administration officials showed us that change is truly in the air, the wind and the environment. Their visit speaks volumes to the potential they see here for an revitalization LA's urban spaces.

For the past five years, my administration has been working to reclaim nature amidst our sprawling urban landscape. We have added 15 new City parks, planted 280,000 trees in areas that needed it the most, and we have adopted the LA River Revitalization Project that will reclaim the natural beauty of the historical watershed.

Yesterday, at Compton Creek, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson took us one step closer to that goal by announcing that the EPA is classifying the LA River as navigable, and therefore entitled to the same federal funding and protections as other rivers under the Clean Water Act.

This is a revelation for the future urban planning of our City. Using the revitalized L.A. River as a hub, we will build around an emerald necklace of parks, walkways, and bike paths. And with this new green infrastructure in place, we will build thriving transit-oriented, LEED-certified communities that protect wildlife, promote economic growth, and most importantly create a better quality of life for all Angelenos.

But to make this happen we need everyone's help. All of us need to pledge to take action and volunteer for an environmentally-related cause.

We need to keep fighting to preserve and expand open space, since it represents the inclusive spirit of our city - the spirit that dictates it doesn't matter who your parents are or where you come from. All of us are awarded the same opportunities and access to enrichment through the outdoors to thrive and grow.

Together, we can leverage our energy, vision, and resources to create a new urban paradigm that celebrates our natural resources, improves our quality of life, and yields limitless potential for smart, sustainable growth.