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Record Turnout for the Friends of Ballona Wetlands Coastal Cleanup Day Event

The Friends of Ballona Wetlands hosted one of their most heavily attended volunteer events on Saturday, September 25th, as part of California’s Coastal Cleanup Day.


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Volunteers, including groups from over fifteen local organizations, spread out into multiple teams to pick up solid trash along the Ballona Creek, parallel to the Ballona Wetlands, and along the berm and in the saltwater marsh. The Friends had work parties continue a year-long effort to remove the highly invasive acacia bushes in the north dunes area, as well as weeds and clover from a section of the east dunes.


Burlap to go!


Action shot


Along Ballona Creek, volunteers collected the usual piles of solid trash that is not biodegradable, like styrofoam, plastic bottles and wrappers, and – most unfortunately – dog poo.


Creek crew


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One veteran docent, June Walden, in charge of the “poo brigade” and adorned with yellow plastic gloves, carefully guided those willing to use plastic gloves when removing the piles along the Creek. Dog owners love the privilege of walking their dog along the south berm adjacent to the Ballona Wetlands, and some of them leave their dog’s droppings behind. All fecal matter – no matter what their source – means more bacteria in the creek, and the increased likelihood of causing harm to plant, animal, and human life.


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Collecting Creek Trash


We actually had so many volunteers that for the first time we sent a cleanup party over Pacific Avenue Bridge onto the north berm side of the Creek to pick up solid trash. Meanwhile, those who wanted to get into the dirt were pulling up non-native weeds in the Wetlands, and using hand tools to remove the acacia bushes. Some were sifting the sand for detritus and helping to restore the north dunes sand to, well, dunes. The exciting thing experienced docents pointed out to those new to the process of sifting sand, was the areas that had been sifted earlier in the year with similar cleanup parties. They were already looking a lot like dune habitat


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Volunteers as part of the “weed brigade” in the south dunes area were busy pulling sweet smelling clover, planted from bygone years when cattle and horses grazed the upland areas. In areas nearby, where weeds and non-native grasses were pulled in recent years, the native heliotroipe was coming back, as well as buckwheat and lupine.

Weeds be gone!


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The weather for Coastal Cleanup Day is usually bright and sunny, so we made sure we had shaded areas for volunteers to sit and rest and have a snack and a drink before resuming activity in the hot sun. The local restaurant Café Milan and Starbucks offered coffee, Yum Yum donuts in Playa del Rey and Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood gave us scrumptious donuts to carbo-load on, the local Whole Foods gave us healthy snack bars, Chloe Lahner donated coffee creamer, soy milk and tangerines – and the Friends provided water to keep everyone hydrated.


Marina Deb Ris, artist extraordinaire, dazzled everyone with new trash works of art, and brought back last year’s favorites – the Cheetos/Fritos bag tablecloth and the hypodermic needle adorned mannequin complete with face mask and stuffed headdress doggy toy. The new mannequin sported a flashy row of colorful lighters and white plastic silverware. Jack in the Box was advertising on a pedestal, but not how the founder would have probably intended. The Styrofoam ball heads of Jack don’t biodegrade, and unfortunately, are often times mistaken by wildlife as something editable.


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It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, so much of our discarded trash ends up along our beaches and wetlands. One volunteer commented out at the Creek that at first glance it didn’t look so bad, until he got down in the rocks and found a surprisingly large number of trash items.


Our local Representative Maxine Waters was not able to stop by to wish us well, due to delays in her busy schedule on the way to the airport, however, her District Director, Blanca Jimenez, not only came to see us but she also pitched in to help.


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With a little help from a ladder we had one crew climb over the chain link fence and get into an area that hasn’t been cleaned up in years. Todd Erlandson, a friend of the Friend and teacher at Otis College led a small group along the fence to pick up ancient Styrofoam cups and plates. Some of them were students and they were amazed the stuff lasts so long in the blazing sun.


Trash Brigade


Volunteers from SONY Pictures Entertainment LINKS program had a swell time, Carol Reynolds demonstrated what a dirty face looks like after removing non-native plants, and Friends Board member John Gregory proudly showed off the work he and his volunteers were doing removing non-native clover from the south dunes. The goal of LINKS is to link SONY Pictures to the community and to its employees, and link employees to each other. Run by a steering committee of 12 employees, LINKS events have reached all parts of the Los Angeles community.


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Harvester Ant


Inn at Playa Del Rey


For those who were tired from weeding or collecting solid trash, members from our local girl scout troop taught others on how to make a granary basket out of willow branches in the Tongva village.


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This year we also added a free raffle at the end of the event, and had so much fun giving multiple recipients the opportunity to select a small token of our appreciation for all their hard work. Books, pins, plush birds, nature stickers for kids, vegetable seed packs – we tried to offer a nice variety of fun stuff for our wonderful volunteers to select from.


We had a record turnout this year – topping over 325 volunteers in the Wetlands – with crew, and because of the well-trained team leaders carefully guiding volunteers to their workstations, our footprint was light and our results very rewarding. We filled a huge dumpster with over 100 bags of solid man-made trash and a ton of non-native plants. Because our work is never done managing 100 acres of the 600 acres in the Reserve. Some volunteer leaders were so inspired they vowed to come back with friends and students and family to continue the work.


Trash pile


We cannot thank enough our wonderful volunteers – some of them Docents with the Friends for over fifteen years – and the following organizations’ volunteers for all their hard work, teamwork and friendly spirit in making our Coastal Cleanup Day a huge success!


BDO, Boeing, Boy Scouts, Buckley High School, Friends of Ballona Wetlands Docents, Gay for Good, Girl Scouts, The Inn at Playa Del Rey, LMU Ignatians Service Organization, LMU Mesa, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Otis College of Art and Design: Rise Above Plastics Class, Santa Clarita High School, SCVI Charter School for International Learning, Santa Monica College Sustainable Works, SONY Pictures Entertainment, Southern California Edison, St. Bernard’s High School.


The Friends thanks you, and we know the critters in the Wetlands thank you!


Lisa Fimiani
Executive Director
Friends of Ballona Wetlands


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Talking trash


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