The city is blooming with summer activities, including this new green space, that means you don’t have to drive to the boonies to pluck plants and forage fresh fruits. Stoneview Nature Center opened this spring in Culver City, and it is a true sanctuary in the city. Tucked away along the border of Baldwin Hills, this space provides families with a quiet (okay, sort of quiet) moment to pick some community fruit, go for a walk, take in the city views or simply enjoy each other’s company.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Fruitful Origins
Stoneview Nature Center was created to be an urban garden sanctuary “focusing on health, art and the environment.” The 5 acre center was sponsored by the Baldwin Hills Conservancy and its garden plans were partly inspired by the Fallen Fruit project. Fallen Fruit was founded in 2004 and began by mapping fruit trees that grow on or over public property to encourage folks to get out, pick fruit and, yes, commune in their communities.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

This was followed by a series of site specific installations and happenings, which includes planting trees and even creating Del Aire Public Fruit Park, to help create a new connection to nature. When Stoneview Nature Center was created, Fallen Fruit was brought in to help plant the garden.  And an enchanting garden they planted.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Pick a Peck of Anything
The not-at-all forbidden fruits here include several varieties of oranges, avocados, figs, grapes, lemons and berries.There is also an aquaponics garden that your wee gardners can study, watching as the little fish swim and produce waste that in turn fertilizes the produce. The sanctuary also has several vegetable garden beds filled with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and more. This is all public fruit: as it ripens you and the kids can feel free to walk around, pick fruits and vegetables and enjoy.  In the words of David Burns, which are posted in the center, “When the fruit is ripe taste it, share it with a friend, leave some for the next person to enjoy.”

The center even has a yearly chart that your little gardeners can study and determine which produce is perfect for the season. Get picking!

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Run, Explore and Enjoy the (Relative) Quiet
After picking, take the family for a walk along the sanctuary paths. There are incredible native plants, fruit trees and plenty of places to sit when you feel like soaking in the quiet, or rather, the semi-quiet with your little chatter boxes around. There are even a number of public exercise apparatuses if anyone needs to burn off more energy. As you take a look around be sure to catch the Stoneview Bee Hotel and the Quail Abode. Yes, there are adorable quail that provide eggs used for the nature center’s cooking classes. Fun fact: Did you know quail eggs provide twice as much protein as chicken eggs?

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Events for the Family and More to Come
While it’s worth the visit just to pick, stroll and learn, Stoneview also hosts weekend events that include kid’s cooking classes on some Saturdays. There are health and wellness classes on the horizon, too. Check their website for more information. Also be sure to step inside to the center’s main building where you can check out their LA inspired library or get more info on the garden.  They may even have a basket of the morning’s harvest that has already been picked that you’re welcome to snack on.

And don’t forget Stoneview is just across the way from the beautiful Kenneth Hahn State Park. With it so close by, it’s perfect to swing by on your way home, to give the kids an opportunity to run in a playground or go duck watching near the lake to get out some energy before getting back in the car.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Stay Tuned
Stoneview has big plans for the future: in about two year’s time there will be a bridge that connects the nature center to Kenneth Hahn as well as a path that leads to the beach. What a way to create connection in this horizontal city of ours. This space is well worth keeping an eye on for the future to see what else they can come up with.

The Sanctuary free to visit and is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Stoneview Nature Center
5950 Stoneview Dr


Do you have a favorite nature oasis in the city?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.  And if you love community gardens, we have a fabulous list of gardens throughout the city that are open to kids and families.

—LeTania Kirkland Smith