CELA Award Winner: David McNeill

Our George W. Carver Environmental Legacy Awards (CELA) is coming up in April to celebrate Earth Day and the accomplishments of members in our community who have made extraordinary accomplishments within the environmental movement. 

We will honor four awardees during the April 20 event at the California Science Center. Today, we’d like to introduce you to David McNeill, Executive Officer of the Baldwin Hills and Urban Watersheds Conservancy.

We recognize David for playing an instrumental role in many open space projects that have connected our communities with green space so that more people can enjoy the great outdoors. The Park the Playa Trail is a wonderful example of the important work that he’s done in his role, and his dedication to creating green space access for our community. 

Here’s more from our interview with David: 

David started with the Baldwin Hills and Urban Watersheds Conservancy 21 years ago, and said he was drawn to the mission because of its focus on creating access to green space for those currently without. He cited something called, “outdoor deficit disorder,” referring to youth that had never been to the forest or the beach – their only understanding of the outside world? Concrete.

“We were the poster child for equity and putting parks where people are – it wasn’t so much a matter of saving a species or dealing with the environment, as it was providing access to communities of color to get into the environment,” David said. “I am a people person – I wouldn’t be in this if it wasn’t impacting people’s lives. The most impactful work that I’ve done revolves around youth and families enjoying open space, and more importantly building a pipeline for people to do my job, except for to do it better than I did.”

David also advocates for individuals to be better heard, and especially for minority communities to realize they have a voice that can create needed change around them. Importantly, he says, every individual needs to find the puzzle piece that will create personal interest and passion within an environmental mission.

“You want a spark to happen,” he said. “You can have what you want as long as you know what you want and you ask for it.” 

For example, if an individual really likes bird watching – ask: how can I make that happen in my community? Or, to think: I think I should be able to walk to a park, how do I make that happen?

“I say you need to go out and have a voice and take control of it and get some ownership – finding that ownership is the key,” he said.

When it comes to enjoying nature, David said he enjoys road trips and exploring the various landscapes of California, having attended school in Oregon and driven the route many times.

“All the natural beauty that California has to offer humbles me,” David said.

We are truly humbled by the work that David has done to change the connection that so many underserved in our region have to nature, and look forward to presenting him with this much deserved award on April 20.

More About CELA

Dr. George Washington Carver, an African American scientist, naturalist, visionary and environmentalist saw it fitting to pursue a life of uplifting his community through the use of ecology and science. His vision lives with us today. The GW Carver Environmental Legacy Awards is intended to serve as recognition for outstanding devotion and service to mankind.

Our award recognizes leaders within their prospective fields of academia, green technology/STEM, environmental justice/advocacy, entertainment and community service categories. These outstanding citizens have distinguished themselves within their prospective professions to have made a positive impact on humanity and our environment. We seek to honor their service to humanity and achievements with our award during this annual gala celebration.