Malibu Lagoon the “Riviera of California”

During my recent bus ride to Malibu, my first stop was at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach, a 13 acre shallow water embayment occurring at the boundary of the Malibu Creek Watershed, the second largest watershed draining into Santa Monica Bay.

“Riviera of California”

The sand-barred lagoon, just off Malibu Point, is a resting and feeding estuary for more than 200 species of migrating and native birds.

Malibu Lagoon

The Malibu Lagoon is where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean.  The beach side of the lagoon is home to Surfrider Beach, world renowned as a surfing and recreational destination and receives approximately 1.5 million visitors every year.

Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach

On the east side of Malibu Creek, the famous Malibu Pier allows for excellent saltwater fishing, dining, and just a great view. In fact, the California State Parks won the 2009 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award for its restoration of the Malibu Pier. The conservancy recognized California State Parks for demonstrating its "solid stewardship of this beloved public resource by reversing decades of decay while staying true to its historic character."

The Malibu Lagoon Master Enhancement Plan

The Malibu Lagoon Master Enhancement Plan

Click here for a larger image.

Malibu Lagoon has undergone many changes in its recent history. In fact, looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that the lagoon had previously been used as a dump site for fill material by Cal Trans and others in the 1950’s and 60’s.

By the late 1970’s the site was completely filled and housed two baseball fields. The size of the lagoon has been greatly diminished by urban development along the coast.

In addition, urbanization upstream in the Malibu Creek Watershed has increased the volume of water transported into the lagoon, which also significantly diminished the waters pollution.

The non-profit group, Heal the Bay, in cooperation with the California Department of Parks and Recreation under a grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy, has coordinated a massive renovation program to revitalize, revamp, and carry through with restoring the Malibu Lagoon to its past grandeur.

What did she find?

The purpose of this project is to design a restoration plan for the Malibu Lagoon ecosystem that provides the greatest benefit for both goals of an enhanced ecosystem structure and function, while still preserving and enhancing the recreational use activities.

Although the restoration is a long term civil engineering endeavor, no matter how long it will take, restoring The Malibu Lagoon to its pristine status is well-worth the effort.

Do you have any important restoration or historic preservation projects going on in your city’s neighborhood? I’d love to hear about them because out national treasures are our cities, parks, and natural resources.

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Riding the Ballona Creek Bicycle Trail

The day after Earth Day, the sun was shining and the air was fresh, so I took the opportunity to ride the Ballona Creek bike trail. Last time I tried to ride the trail, the first entry point was closed for construction. Today, I entered at next entry point and had no difficulties.

Entrance

Close to the end of Duquesne Ave. in Culver City, the Ballona Creek trail starts. It’s approachable from either Culver or Jefferson Blvd. This well-used entrance is on the downstream side across from Culver City’s Transportation Facility.

Although at this point, it isn’t much of a creek yet, it’s a neighborhood icon.

“Rivers of the World”

At the entrance, riders are welcomed by the “Rivers of the World” mural sponsored by the Ballona Creek Renaissance, a non-profit group whose mission is to improve Ballona Creek, and the community’s use of it.

Walking Bridge

Located right behind the Culver City Middle School, which borders the trail, this arched bridge makes walking to and from the school much easier for its students. The day I was there, school was letting out, so the bridge was both functional and practical, as many students were making full use of the bridge and trail to return home. The bridge looks rather rustic and its façade is stunning as it seemingly floats above the water in the trail below.

Ballona Creek

Further down the trail, Ballona Creek’s magnificence is breathtaking.

Our feathered friends

Our feathered friends share Ballona Creek with us city dwellers.

Big Bird

Along with the smaller birds, I was a tad surprised to see this big guy here. I’m not sure what the yellow cable is for, so if you know, feel free to enlighten me in the comments. It could be for dredging, or for protection of the wetland’s shore–so for all of you environmental experts, we’d love to hear from you.

Marina del Rey

At the end of the trail, Marina del Rey appears on my right, with Ballona Creek on my left.

I love this part of the trail

With the ocean in front of me and the bridge coming up on the righ, around the bend is the focal point where the Ballona Creek trail meets the Beach Trail.

What a great ride!

Riding the Ballona Creek bike trail is something I never tire of. A round trip is a fine-ride, full of ups and downs, and sights to behold at each overpass. If you plan on riding the trail, be sure to have a map for various entry points. Because there have been a few assaults on the trail, it’s best to ride with a friend, which also increases your fun factor at the same time.

Next week, I’ll be participating in Bike to Work Week. Biking isn’t just for exercise; it also saves money, it’s green, it might save you time, and it pretty much eliminates trying to decide which two cars will fit into one parking space.

I’m looking forward to the challenge.

BTW, May is National Bike Month. To see if there are any events in your “neck of the woods,” the League of American Bicyclists is the official site to find any national information for your plans.

Do you ride bicycle trails close to your house? How about commuting to work? I know Lance commutes via bike when the weather cooperates. Do you plan on participating in your local Bike to Work Week?

Travelin’ Local by bike is a great way to see the sights and sounds of the city, and it’s a great “green” way of getting where you need to go.

Update: Santa Monica has been awarded a “bronze level distinction” for its “remarkable commitments to bicycling” by the League of American Bicyclists. Congratulations, Santa Monica!!

Macarthur Park is going to the Birds

Whoever thought a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles couldn’t have so many different varieties of birds, definitely hasn’t visited Macarthur Park, which is located in the Westlake district.

Considering the recent history of Macarthur Park, it has come a long way; it used to be “crime central” in Los Angeles–drug-dealing, shoot-outs and the occasional rumored drowning, and as many as 30 murders in 1990. When the lake was drained during construction of the Red Line Metro tunnel, hundreds of handguns and other firearms were found to have been disposed of in the lake.

However, beginning in 2002, the Los Angeles Police Department, along with local business and community leaders led a revitalization effort that has led to the installation of surveillance cameras, the opening of a recreation center, increased business, a new Metro station, plus paddle boats and a fountain. Most recently, in 2005, the park was celebrated for having the highest reduction of crime statistics per resident in the United States. Source: Macarthur Park

I’ll be telling you more about Macarthur Park soon, but for today, I’m going to feature a few of our feathered friends that I discovered there. I wish I knew them by their names, but since I don’t, the pictures will have to suffice.

If there are any ornithologists in the audience, speak up or forever hold your peace; or if you do know the birds names, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll add them into the post.

Let’s Bird Watch:

That’s it for the birds for today, as this last guy—or girl—is seemingly both curious as to my reason for taking its picture but not offering him/her some food.

So as my visit to Macarthur Park this afternoon is fading into dusk, today’s Travelin’ Local’s foray into previously dangerous but now bird friendly ground, has made this day one more of delight and appreciation of nature right in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.

Tomorrow I’ll be featuring a testimony and treat about a world famous organ, its concert, and the church where the city was built around; it’s within walking distance from Macarthur Park as well.

Yesterday was a fun weekday Travelin’ Local. Not all events happen on the weekend, so are you trying to go somewhere nearby to celebrate your backyard and week?

[Update]  Much Thanks to Stacy from Create a Balance who provided the names of the birds.  From the top:

1.  A Brewers Blackbird

2.  The black bird in the background is an American Coot and the bird in the front is a Greylag Goose (note: this goose is not a native bird to North America)

3.  Barnyard Geese and potentially Western Gulls in the background.

4.  Perhaps a first year Glaucous-Winged Gull…but it could be a Glaucous-Wing Western hybrid.

Sea gulls in Motion

I’m taking a hint from a recent post I enjoyed over at SierraVisions.com which featured a great photo palette of bald eagle pictures, all of whom reside in Starved Rock State Park.

Unfortunately, I don’t have bald eagles, but I do have sea gulls, typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They typically have harsh wailing or squawking calls. They have stout, longish bills, and webbed feet.

These pictures were taken in a variety of locations, because you can’t go anywhere in the Los Angeles area and not see the wonders of sea gulls:

Oops, after taking another look, these pictures were all taken at Venice Beach. There’s smattering of a few pigeons in this bright California day.

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California and Los Angeles in particular, definitely be sure to put sun, fun, and shopping on your to-do list. But when it comes time to relax, sitting by the beach, reading a good book and watching the sea gulls is a great way to go.

Californian’s Want Wetlands

Just strolling

At the turn of the century, during the rainy season, Ballona Creek and several other small streams would be transformed into torrents as they carried the collected water from the Los Angeles watershed area to the Santa Monica Bay. It would flood large areas of the Los Angeles basin, and the creek’s course shifted as flooding carved new paths through the land.

During the 1930’s, the Army Corps of Engineers carved it into a large channel and lined all but its last couple of miles with concrete to speed the water’s flow to the ocean. An extensive system of drains, mostly underground, was built to funnel storm water into the creek. While these projects were effective in accomplishing the task at hand, the transformation of the creek from a natural waterway into a massive storm drain has broken a link in the ecological chain and severed the connection between the community and the land on which it resides.

Ballona Creek trail entrance

With about 95% of Southern California’s original coastal wetlands have been destroyed or degraded, open space is a valuable and rare commodity in urban environments – especially in Los Angeles. The fact that California voters approved the purchase and rehabilitation of this area showed that the Californian’s want their environmental resources preserved.

The Ballona Wetlands are part of a 1,087-acre property that industrialist Howard Hughes used for aircraft production and testing.

Ballona Creek walking trail

In recent decades, the area has been degraded by manufacturing, farming and dredge spoils. Yet it has managed to remain a habitat for a number of endangered and threatened species, including the California brown pelican and the Belding’s savannah sparrow.

The idea that this land could ever be preserved and restored for wildlife purposes would have been a complete shock to Howard Hughes and to many other leaders in Los Angeles over the years. It represents a shift in attitude and a shift in Los Angeles’ vision of itself and its future.

Today, Ballona Creek is a nine-mile-long flood control channel. It drains the Ballona Creek watershed, which covers approximately 130 square miles: from the Santa Monica mountains on the north to the Baldwin Hills on the south, and from the Harbor Freeway (110) on the east to the Pacific Ocean.

Work continues on Ballona Creek, to the bike path, to the landscaping, and continued active volunteer work by several organizations, Ballona Creek Renaissance and Ballona Institute.

Soaring

The section I visited is at the end of the creek bordering the marina. Riding my bike, I headed for the trailhead. Surprisingly, bikes are not allowed on this particular part of the trail, so I walked my bike at this juncture. Standing at the end on the man-made platform, I was amazed at what I was seeing, a wetland in the city. It was quite an accomplishment of the non-profit groups mentioned above to talk the various municipalities into saving as much of it as possible and of course the voters who made it happen to allow the State to originally purchase and rezone these crucial environmental resources.

Brimming with small wildlife, Ballona Creek is a fantastic place to see nature up close and personal. Today I only had time to spend about a half an hour here, but I will definitely be going back to walk the whole trail. And often–indeed it will be sooner rather than later.

Me and my reflection

Do you have nature in your backyard? Well, Ballona Creek isn’t exactly in my backyard (although I would love to own one of those houses), but it’s only about 20 minutes away.

That’s the beauty of Travelin’ Local; everything is only a stone’s throw away.