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Earth Day Report: Springtime Restoration & Creek Cleanup at Ballona

By Christian Alvez, Friends of Ballona Wetlands


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Each spring, even as several species of native flora assert their presence in the meadow and upland areas of the Ballona Wetlands salt marsh, the invasive bloom and coating of seeded non-native species inundate the wetlands. This spring is no different, and with all the welcome rain over the last few months, even more so. And just like each spring since the Friends began our restoration program, volunteers come for Earth Day and create opportunities for salt marsh heliotrope, heath alkali, pearly everlasting, pincushion and numerous other native plants to flourish by engaging in restoration activities.


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This year, the Friends celebrated Earth Day at the Ballona Wetlands once again – this time with the collaboration of our up-creek friends, Ballona Creek Renaissance. Nearly 150 volunteers came to remove solid waste from Ballona Creek, remove invasive non-native plants from the dunes and around the replica Tongva Village. By 9:00 a.m., the sights and scents of springtime at Ballona (not to mention some breakfast) greeted volunteers and Earth Day enthusiasts.


TONGVA VILLAGE


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Flanked by Scout Pack 303 from Bellflower, dedicated volunteer and FBW Board Member John Gregory led the scouts and other young Angelenos in an area by the Tongva Village, removing non-native foxtail and ripgut brome sandwiched between the advancing native sandbar willows on one side and myoporum that border the oil pump on the other. With near expert care, the young restorers worked around seedlings of everlasting and telegraph weed, and even salt grass!


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THE MEADOW


After tirelessly removing piles of ice plants off the salt marsh trail, several volunteers migrated to what we call the meadow, the ecotone or transitional area between the marsh and the dunes. These volunteers removed Eurasian grasses that have been crowding out the salt marsh heliotrope concealed beneath their canopy of seeds.


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CENTRAL DUNES


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In the middle of the flowering silver dune lupines, volunteers raked and sifted the remnants of an iceplant spread that had taken over a small area over the last two years. Their efforts leave behind an area ready for natives like the silver lupine, branching phacelia and deerweed (and who knows, perhaps others like wallflower, California poppy, everlasting and primrose) to grow.


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NORTH DUNES


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Further up to the area we call the north dunes, long-time volunteer Bryce Smith led a group of volunteers to continue trimming down the non-native acacia trees that line the fence. Volunteers also sifted the sand for acacia detritus, which prevents native plants from growing due to its resin. The north dunes area is slowly transforming over the last few years to welcome the spread of sand verbena, deerweed, wallflower, lupine, and several species of primrose.


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BALLONA CREEK


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Led by June Walden – a veteran docent who also volunteers with Los Angeles Audubon, as well as volunteers from Ballona Creek Renaissance, Earth Day enthusiasts, including students from Echo Horizon School, collected almost thirty bags of solid waste — that is a whole lot of solid waste that would have eventually ended up on our beaches and out in the Pacific Ocean.


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Sunshine poured down as the volunteers worked to accomplish their tasks. Restoration can be quite the work out, but the pay off is in the hard work itself – bit by bit, small areas are cleared for native plants to grow, while bags filled with debris from the creek start to pile up – trash that would otherwise empty out into the Santa Monica Bay.


ART INSTALLATION BY MARINA DeBRIS


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Before the morning ended, volunteers were treated to raffle prizes, as well as a chance to view art by local artist Marina DeBris, who has been exhibiting her work with us over the last few years. Marina transforms the man-made solid waste she finds in our creeks and on our beaches into works of art that are simultaneously gorgeous, shocking, and educational.


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Although it is now cliché to say, “every day should be Earth Day,” it continues to ring true. Restoration at the Ballona Wetlands has been ongoing for more than a decade now, and we see the fruits of our labor with each passing day.


All photos courtesy Mr. Bud Betts (see the rest on our Flickr Page)


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