A blossoming spring on a mostly-bare campus

While students continue remote-learning away from campus, Valley College has become a hangout spot for surrounding communities.

By Marcos Franco, News Editor

McKenzie and Colin Campbell ride their bikes through the Valley College campus on a calm Friday afternoon, taking advantage of the student-less environment. Valley Glen, Calif. Friday, April 30, 2021. (Photo by Marcos Franco/The Valley Star)

Although Valley College has yet to return entirely in-person, the Monarch’s quad has not gone unused, as families and community members turn to campus for recreational activities.

Fifty-four-year-old Colin Campbell and his 10-year-old daughter McKenzie are no strangers to the campus. The two Valley Glen residents were regulars, even before the campus closure last spring, but stopped their visits following the pandemic, due to an uncertainty of regulations. After a year away from the school grounds, they are back with greased bike wheels and strapped on helmets.

“We live in the neighborhood so we’re familiar with the campus as a recreational area and have enjoyed the opportunity to come over here and explore a little bit,” said Colin. “We only come either after hours or on weekends because most of the time it is completely empty, like it is today.”

Originally from San Luis Obispo, Colin is used to a campus bike path. In his previous neighborhood all schools served as public parks for the community on weekends and holidays. After moving to Los Angeles, he was unpleasantly surprised to find most schools in the area fenced off, discouraging recreation from the community. Valley’s accessible campus is a familiar greeting for the cyclist.

“What I love is that there has been plenty of time during the day where there are giant open spaces, it’s almost like a park,” said Colin.

Encino resident Erin Dugan first heard of the campus being used as a recreation area on social media, where she saw bikers, skaters, joggers and dog-walkers alike enjoying the flora-filled campus. After scrolling through Instagram, she jumped at the opportunity, using the open area to hone her roller-skating skills.

“I recently started skating with a friend of mine and although she’s not with me, we usually skate here together,” said the 24 year old. “The environment is so beautiful, the flowers are my favorite part of coming here, I feel welcomed by them.”

Aside from the biodiversity offered on campus, what the skater loves most is the continuous and secure ride the walkways allow. The smooth fresh pavement minimizes risk of injury, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for skaters, leaving them eager to return.

“I plan to keep skating here after classes return in larger numbers, but during quieter times,” said Dugan. “It’s a beautiful campus and I love the plant life here, I don’t want to go back to the roller rinks.”

According to the sheriff’s office, the campus has essentially become a public park during the remote-learning period. Aside from physical activities, picnics and photoshoots have become common not only on weekends, but also throughout the week. Patrols have been quiet for deputies as they give folks space for outdoor activities, when passing through the quad.

Coyote sightings have also become more common as the carnivores become the new dominant inhabitants, replacing students. Sheriffs have also reported regular findings of cat and squirrel remains scattered throughout college, a solemn reminder of the presence of wildlife on campus.

With warm weather, flourishing plant life and a peaceful quiet area away from the overwhelming fast-paced life of Los Angeles, it is understandable why people are gravitating towards campus. Despite its occasionally empty feel, community members are taking advantage of the open area while it lasts, enjoying their time in the Valley Glen sun.

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