How did the native peoples of Ballona utilize the plants in the area?
  1. The Arroyo Willow was used by the Tongva for relieving pain, much like aspirin is used today.
  2. Sagebrush leaves were once brewed by the Tongva to help ease childbirth.
  3. The Tongva used Sea-Blite as flour as well as a dye for basketry.

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Board of Directors

  • Dr. Eloise Appel (President) has lived in the Playa del Rey area for over 30 years. She earned a doctorate in educational evaluation and research from UCLA and established an education consulting firm specializing in program evaluation, educational assessment, and professional development. Ms. Appel has conducted evaluation studies at both the local and state level and provided technical assistance and professional development for the US Department of Education. Areas of specialization include early childhood and literacy, family literacy, bilingual education, health education, and teacher certification program evaluation. Ms. Appel began her career in education as an elementary school teacher.

    Recently retired, Ms. Appel enjoys taking walks with her husband Mark along the Ballona Creek Jetty, and is very interested in learning more about the Ballona Wetlands and how she can assist the Friends in furthering their mission. She is an active volunteer with the Hope Street Family Center in downtown LA and serves as the co-chair of their Fund Development Committee. She has also served on the Board of Governors of the Airport Marina Counseling Service non-profit.

  • Neil P. Navin (Vice President) is vice president, gas transmission and storage for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), one of Sempra Energy’s regulated California utilities. He oversees gas storage risk management for SoCalGas’ four storage facilities in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties.

    Since joining Sempra Energy in 2014, Navin has held a variety of responsibilities in gas storage, major projects management, and project controls. From 2014 to 2016, Navin was director of major projects for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). He oversaw gas pipeline projects, project controls, project quality, and project document management.

    From 2000 to 2014, Navin was with Fluor Corporation managing engineering procurement and construction (EPC) projects in both domestic and international markets in the Middle East, California, Alaska, Canada, and Europe. He served in various rolls from senior director to engineering manager on environmental, fuel cell, and conventional oil and gas energy mega-projects.

    From 1991 – 2000, Navin was with Ralph M. Parsons managing EPC projects in the Middle East, US, and Europe. He served in various rolls from project manager to process engineering manager on environmental, chemical weapons destruction, gas treating, sulfur recovery, and conventional oil and gas projects.

    Navin serves on the board of directors of Housing Works, a permanent supportive housing non-profit. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

  • Ruth Lansford (Founder) was raised in Long Island, New York where she lived next to wetlands. She moved to Playa del Rey in the early 1960’s where she found she was once more neighbor to a wetland. After heirs of Howard Hughes’ estate announced development plans in the wetlands, Ms. Lansford formed the Friends of Ballona Wetlands in 1978. The Friends fought the proposed development but the California Coastal Commission approved it.

    Then, in 1984 the Friends, led by a determined Ms. Lansford, filed suit. After more than 6 years in litigation and negotiation, a settlement was reached with the subsequent landowner, (Maguire Thomas) which preserved 340 acres of wetland and surrounding habitat.

    The Friends continued to push for more acreage to be saved, and in 2003 the State purchased the remaining Ballona acres west of Lincoln from Playa Vista.

    For Ruth Lansford’s  outstanding efforts over 3 decades to preserve and protect the Ballona Wetlands, in 2006 she won the prestigious National Citizen Planner of the Year award from the American Planning Association (APA), having won the state award in 2005.

  • Catherine Tyrrell (Secretary) is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) AP (accredited professional) and served as Board President from 2010 to 2012. Ms. Tyrrell has extensive knowledge of California's water quality regulations, stormwater management activities and watershed management approaches.

    She has been the assistant executive officer for surface water programs with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Among other activities, she led the effort with the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate health and water quality monitoring statewide.

    She was also the executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project -- one of the first watershed projects in Southern California with a surface water quality focus.

    Prior to joining her present firm, RMC Water, she worked for the engineering firms Arcadis-Malcolm Pirnie and Psomas. Before that, she was director of coastal and environmental affairs for Playa Vista, where she created a conservancy to oversee operations, monitoring and maintenance of the master-planned community's freshwater marsh system. She also oversaw development and implementation of the freshwater marsh operations and maintenance manual. In addition, Ms. Tyrrell was responsible for coastal permitting for transportation and restoration projects within the coastal zone.

    Ms. Tyrrell holds a master's degree in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a past board member of the Ballona Wetlands Foundation and the past president of the Ballona Wetlands Conservancy. Tyrrell and her husband, who have three grown children, moved to Playa Vista in March of 2006.

  • John Gregory (Treasurer) recently retired as an accountant at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and brings to the FBW board thirty years of accounting and finance experience in the entertainment and aerospace industries and in public accounting, where he received his CPA certificate.

    At Sony Pictures, he has long been active in LINKS, the company's employee volunteer program, participating in a variety of environmental community service projects such as tree plantings with TreePeople. Mr. Gregory is also on the LINKS Steering Committee, which contributes to the selection, organization, preparation and leadership of the volunteer events.

    He was introduced to the Ballona Wetlands and the Friends' mission to champion the restoration and protection of the wetlands through the annual Sony Global Volunteer Day in 2008.

    A New Jersey native, Mr. Gregory has fond memories of the marshlands along the Jersey shore, and has long appreciated the wisdom and importance of protecting nature's delicate ecosystems. Accordingly, he became more involved with the Friends, and joined the board in March 2009. Mr. Gregory and his wife Kathy reside in nearby Westchester.

  • Dr. Kenneth Dial is a professor emeritus in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana. His research program focuses on the behavior, biomechanics, neural control, ecology and evolution of avian flight. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University, Dr. Dial became a professor of biology at the University of Montana in 1988. As a teenager, Ken took a keen interest in both aeronautics (his father was an aeronautical engineer near LAX) and biology (nature’s fliers). Dial was founder and acting director of the UM Flight Laboratory as well as director of UM Field Research Station at Fort Missoula. He teaches graduate classes in evolutionary biology of East Africa.

    With more than 35 years of experience as a pilot, Ken is currently pilot-owner of a CJ3 (N53KJ), certified to fly several types of jet aircraft and turbo-props, but prefers backcountry flying into remote airstrips in the Montana-Idaho wilderness in his Cessna Skywagon C185. Ken developed and hosted 26 episodes of “All Bird TV” on the Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet. Dial has been a keynote speaker at numerous symposia (including the Society of Experimental Test Pilot’s international meetings). Ken recently transitioned from full-time professorial duties at the University of Montana to work on wildlife and land conservation projects in Tanzania, Kenya, southern California and western Montana.

  • Dr. Pippa Drennan grew up in South Africa and earned her PhD from University of KwaZulu-Natal with a specialty in mangrove/estuarine biology. She is on the faculty at Loyola Marymount University and teaches plant biology and ecology, frequently involving her LMU students in special projects at Ballona Wetlands. She has served as a botany consultant for the Friends for the past six years and Board Member since 2001. Dr. Drennan also enjoys nature photography and she and her family travel worldwide.

  • Nancy Edwards joined the Friends Board in July 2013. She retired in April 2011 from Aptium Oncology where she was Director of Information Technology responsible for the implementation of all Financial Systems for 13 years. Prior to her work with Aptium Oncology, Nancy spent 17 years as Director of Business Services at various hospital systems.

    Key amongst the many goals she established for her retirement is giving back to the community she loves. Friends of Ballona Wetlands is a natural fit as Nancy and her husband John have a home overlooking the Ballona Wetlands. They have long understood the need to protect and restore this natural wonder. Creating awareness for the conservation and restoration of our natural resources, waterways and wildlife is an important mission. Joining the Friends provides a great opportunity to promote this important cause and become a steward of the Wetlands

    Nancy is also a Trustee on the Board of the Natural History Museum and a Board Member of the Westchester Mental Health Guild.

    Nancy and her husband John have lived in the El Segundo and Playa Del Rey area for 30 years. She keeps her binoculars trained on the wetlands and scours them daily to see what friends may be flying about. Other interests include cooking, tasting and collecting wine, and travel to locations near and far.

  • Lisa Fimiani became an avid bird-watcher while growing up in Buffalo, New York. In 1986 she moved to Los Angeles, where she joined the Domestic Television Sales division of Paramount Pictures. In her last position at Paramount she served as vice president of Sales Administration and Program Lineups, and after 18 years with the company left to form her own consulting firm.

    She has been a member of the National Audubon Society since living in Buffalo. In June of 2006 Ms. Fimiani stepped down after serving 6 years on the Audubon California Board, and joined the Board of the Los Angeles Audubon Society chapter as treasurer. A Docent at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh since it was formed in 2003, Ms. Fimiani joined the Friends’ Board in 2005. She created a native plant design company in 2007. Ms. Fimiani was Executive Director of the Friends from 2009 to 2016, bringing an abundance of knowledge as a local naturalist.

  • Susan Gottlieb joined the Friends’ Board in August 2007 as an expression of her passionate support for the organization’s work at Ballona restoring the dunes where native plants are an essential component to support migrant and resident birds. Ms. Gottlieb partners with her husband, Dan Gottlieb, in an array of projects that support wildlife. Their own native plant garden has been showcased on Huell Howser’s show, California’s Green and is featured on the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour since its inception in 2003.

    Susan and Dan Gottlieb opened their G2 Gallery on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA, March 2008. The mission of G2 Gallery is accomplished by showcasing photographic images of our natural environment by today’s most gifted artists and partnering with conservation and educational organizations. In keeping with the Mission of the Gallery, some of the proceeds are donated to the Friends.

  • Stephen Groner is the founder of S. Groner Associates, Inc. (SGA) a community relations and social marketing firm. The firm is an eclectic mix of communication professionals and research staff that help local governments, private companies, and non-profits bridge the communications gap with their stakeholders. Stephen received his bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is a California Registered Civil Engineer.

    Prior to starting SGA, Stephen worked on environmental issues addressing regional water quality and waste management problems facing the region. Stephen started his career working on technical environmental remediation issues for the County of Los Angeles and slowly shifted his focus to policy and communications issues addressing regional environmental concerns. Stephen alsp serves on the board of Los Angeles Social Venture Partners a philanthropic organization that invests time and money in non-profit organizations to help build their capacity.

  • Steve Hirai became a member of the Friends’ Board in January 2012. Steve is a business development manager for Parsons, a global engineering, construction, technical, and management services firm. He is responsible for business development and for setting the strategy and implementation for successful performance and sustained growth.

    Steve has managed and supported a variety of municipal water, wastewater, and energy projects in Southern California for over 20 years, and has been involved in research, design, and construction activities related to the treatment, storage, and conveyance of municipal water and wastewater. He is also knowledgeable about renewable energy projects, having designed multiple large-scale solar generation facilities and directed strategic energy management studies.

    Steve is a professional civil engineer, having received his M.S. in Environmental Engineering from UCLA in 1993, and has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the same university in 1992.

    Steve was raised in Westchester and fondly remembers playing in the Ballona Wetlands as a child. He now resides in Culver City, CA with his wife and two children.

  • Jim Kennedy joined the Friends' Board in January 2014. Jim has been a staff member for several local elected officials. In that capacity he has contributed to developing energy and environmental policies and programs. Jim expanded the “Cool Cities” U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Initiative into a South Bay regional partnership to combine cities’ resources to more effectively reduce green house gas emissions. That effort continues through the South Bay Environmental Services Center (SBESC) Green Task Force. As part of his efforts to advocate for and implement energy conservation and alternative energy programs, Jim helped organize the effort to stop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal from being built in the Santa Monica Bay. Jim was involved in preserving green spaces and revitalizing ecosystems in the Ballona Creek and at the Redondo Beach AES power plant site.

    Jim has been involved in the Ballona Wetlands restoration design and planning as a member of the Ballona Creek Task Force and by serving as an alternate on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission for LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. He has also worked with the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation on Prop O stormwater filtration projects. Jim coordinated the LA City Council process for the final approval of the Venice Dual Force Main FEIR.

    Jim currently works as a public relations and communications consultant. Jim is involved in building community support for water conservation through policy formulate, advocacy for program adoption, and by facilitating dialogue to build public involvement in project development and implementation. Similarly, Jim has been coordinating mass transit project implementation.

    Jim has worked on several local, state, and federal campaigns. He is a California Democratic Party State Central Committee Delegate since 2006, and was an Alternate Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. He served on the Board of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats from 2005-2007. Since 2007, Jim has been an active Board member of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. In addition, Jim serves as a volunteer mediator in the Dispute Resolution Program of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

    Jim has a background in business development and has degrees in economics from the London School of Economics and the College of William & Mary.

  • Dr. James Landry is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as Director of the Environmental Science Program at Loyola Marymount University (LMU). He also serves as the Senior Director of Operations for LMU’s Center for Urban Resilience (CURes). He has held a variety of administrative positions at LMU since joining the faculty in 1984; including Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department (1992-1996), Director and founding Chair of the Natural Science Department (1995-2007), Director of the University Honors Program (2000-2003), Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Science and Engineering (2007-2012), and most recently interim Vice Provost for Enrollment Management (2012-2013). His research has included collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute developing methods of analysis of art objects using infrared microspectroscopy and determining museum environments employing gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

    His current research interests include the determination of heavy metal levels in the Ballona Wetlands as this degraded urban wetlands begins the process of restoration. Landry has served on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Ballona Wetlands since 2010. He was involved in the development of the Ballona Discovery Park, which opened in 2012 and is an open-air, educational and cultural Ballona Watershed learning center for students and the general public.Dr. Landry has served on the Board since 2010.

  • Nicholas O’Deegan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife and three precocious boys. He studied Political Economy and Urban Planning at UC Berkeley and had every intention of becoming a City Planner when he applied to a small startup in 2000 called Google. Seventeen years later, still at Google, he specializes in global corporate IT infrastructure, large scale program management and organizational productivity. He holds an MS in Computer Science from Cal State Long Beach. When not at work, he and his boys enjoy building things in their garage - legos, robotics kits, pinewood derby cars and anything that requires power tools.

    Nicholas became a friend of the Friends after attending a volunteer event, where a conversation about panoramic photography with staff developed into a collaboration with Google to create an immersive educational classroom experience using the Google Expedition VR platform.

  • Dr. Edith Read is the President of E. Read and Associates, a company that she formed in 2007 to streamline management of the Ballona Freshwater Marsh and support her consulting work surveying rare plants throughout Southern California and Western Arizona. Dr. Read earned a PhD in Biology from UC Irvine, specializing in Plant Ecology. She began her work at Ballona in 1991 with water studies relating to water availability and plant need while employed at Psomas. Subsequently, she studied plant populations throughout Ballona.

  • Center for Natural Lands Management hired Dr. Read as the first Marsh Preserve Manager in 2003 prior to the opening of the Marsh and the Marsh flourishes under her care. Dr. Read oversees water monitoring, community relations, planting, wildlife monitoring and an array of other tasks. She has fondly become known to the community as the Marsh Mistress.

    She has been involved with the Friends as an advisor regarding dunes restoration and in August 2007 became a member of the Board. With projects in Eastern Sierra Nevada and Southern California, another long-term area of expertise is monitoring impacts of stream diversion on habitat. Social Justice and providing “living wages” are values Dr. Read expresses through her company.

  • Deb Roges and veteran network news and television producer Barry Berk partnered to form BBDR Pacific, a full-service event production/video production company servicing primarily non-profit agencies.  The company has managed fundraisers, corporate events, and conferences; clients include the Anti-Defamation League, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, Cedars Sinai Board of Governors, Tower Cancer Research Foundation, A Place Called Home, Hope Street Family Center, New Directions for Veterans, UCLA Anderson, and UCLA Semel Institute.

    Roges started her career at public relations giants Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, where over the course of 15 years she created and implemented top of mind strategic brand and media campaigns, counseled clients on crisis communications, and developed publicity events for some of the world's most recognized brands. She was also part of the company’s corporate crisis team, traveling the country to media train executives and spokespersons.

    She segued her agency experience into a corporate communications position with giant talent agents Michael Ovitz, Julie Yorn, and Rick Yorn, as they launched a new talent/production agency, AMG/ATG/APG.  Deb managed a team of in-house and external/studio publicity campaigns, while also providing strategic counsel, often serving as the company’s spokesperson.

    Deb and her husband, Dr. Rafael Roges are long-time residents of the beach community of Playa del Rey.

    Board Delegates

  • Jacob Lipa is the president of Psomas, a consulting engineering firm serving public and private clients throughout the western United States. The firm specializes in the land development, water/wastewater, and transportation markets.

    Mr. Lipa was a natural choice to lead the Friends as President from 2008 to 2010. Under his presidency the organization increased staff, expanded public outreach, inaugurated a new website, and expanded the Friends Board of Directors with active, giving members.

    Meanwhile, his firm (he became Psomas president in 2002) has established a reputation in the front lines of sustainable engineering with a number of LEED-rated projects. Since 2002, the firm has more than doubled in size, has entered several new markets and expanded throughout the West. He is in charge of all day-to-day operations of the 700-employee firm.

    Prior to assuming his current position, Lipa was principal-in-charge of Psomas’ land development services. He has more than three decades experience providing civil engineering services and managing large-scale projects in the United States, including Playa Vista, the location of the Ballona Wetlands.

  • Michael Swimmer joined the Friends Board in July of 2006. A recently-retired Landscape Architect (ASLA) in Los Angeles since 1976; Mr. Swimmer graduated Cal Poly Pomona in 1970, with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture; receiving his Masters Degree in 1988 from UCLA in Architecture and Urban Planning, specializing in Energy Conserving Design. He started his own "design-build" office in 1973, after 2 years apprentice work in Landscape Architecture.

    Mr. Swimmer is the winner of seven major Design Awards, including First Place Award in California for the Disneyland Hotel in 1977. The scope of his projects includes: Master Plan for 17 acre camp in Idyllwild; Master Plan for Solstice Canyon, California, Mountains & Recreation Conservancy; protection of 50 acre wetland, Mammoth Lakes; many hotel and shopping center projects, including Century City Shopping Center in 1989; and many large and small residential projects through out the Los Angeles area and in Idaho, Michigan, and Arizona.

    Mr. Swimmer consulted for the Friends with Mary Thomson, former volunteer director of restoration, in the 1980’s, and has been a life long admirer of the Ballona Wetlands, kayaking Marina del Rey harbor and the Ballona channel.

  • Emeritus Board of Directors

  • Tim Rudnick has been a member of the Friends since its inception in 1978, and served as a Board Member for over 15 years. A Venice activist and marine naturalist, Mr. Rudnick’s interest and expertise lie in the connection between the wetland ecosystem and the ocean. He has played an integral role in educating local residents about the importance of preserving Ballona. Mr. Rudnick also takes students on boat trips and teaches them about marine ecology through the Venice Oceanarium, which he founded.

  • Bob Shanman was elected to the Friends’ Board in 1997. His involvement with the Ballona Wetlands goes back to 1977 when he first took up bird watching. In 1980, he began leading walks at Ballona Creek for Los Angeles Audubon. Mr. Shanman was directly responsible for involving the National Audubon Society at the Ballona Wetlands.

    Beyond his service to the Friends Board, he continues to lead monthly Audubon bird walks at Ballona, Madrona Marsh, and parks in Manhattan Beach, is involved with several school programs, and helps fundraise for South Bay Wildlife Rehab. In 1995, Mr. Shanman opened Wild Birds Unlimited in Torrance, CA, which is part of a national franchise. He is a registered Civil and Geotechnical Engineer in California.