In the northwest corner of east Mission Bay, The Friends of Mission Bay Marshes, organized by Roy Little, local PB resident, and Isabelle Kay, UCSD Marsh Manager, along with UCSD students and environmental volunteers, are meeting every other week (first and third Saturday 9-12am) at the bungalow at Pacific Beach Drive and Crown Point Drive to continue their ongoing projects of : re-establishing native plants and removing non-native invasive ones, reclaiming natural slopes of the land to help re-establish water flow to bring essential sediment and nutrients to the starved marsh, and nurturing endangered bird species.
Isabelle Kay, UCSD professor and advisor emeritus to the group, is happy to see so much interest developing for the natural reserve. “I think people are becoming very aware of the essential role coastal wetlands play in our environment, from serving as fish nurseries and bird refuges, to buffering the land from tidal surges, to filtering toxins from the water, as well as simply being beautiful natural vistas teeming with elegant and very photogenic bird wildlife.” Roy Little, amateur wildlife photographer couldn’t agree more. Some of his spectacular photos are on their website, (http://missionbaymarshes.org.) and in permanent exhibition on the information board at the corner of the marsh.
Recent meetings, in November, have been a hive of activity as the group works to build a temporary “shade house” near the bungalow to nurture native plants before planting them in the marsh. “One of our biggest problems, and one that is actually killing the marsh, is lack of fresh water input,” says Kay. “Future Pacific Beach projects (Gateway Project for example) seek to re-direct waters from Rose Creek back toward the marsh, by reclaiming Campland’s lease (2017) and removing the artificial landfill, but that is a long way off. Phil Roullard, assistant manager with San Diego Earthworks, a non-profit group, and a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, are enabling this reclamation project.
“The site proposed for restoration is outside the wetland area, and is currently degraded because of the poor soil conditions (coarse-grain substrate and/or low organic matter deposited as fill,” from Professor Kay’s UCSD grant proposal.
“For now we are going to push around some of the landfill from the developer days in the 70’s, in our own section, to allow the natural, although sparse, rainfall to better find its way down to the marsh, bringing the sediments and nutrients for the sustainable maintenance of the native plants which the birds use to build their nests.” Cord grass, for the light-footed clapper rail, an endangered bird species , looking like a small speckled chicken with a distinctive “clapping” call, is of particular concern. Other native plants include pickelweed (salicornia/sarcocrnia europea) natural toxin filter, purple alkali heath (frankenia), jaumea, and arrow grass (triglochin).
Senior urban studies major, Juliette Orozco, is designing this topographic study as her senior project, and is very enthusiastic about getting more people involved with caring about the marsh, and for coastal interface zones in general. From Carlsbad, in North County, where more recent urban development concepts have intelligently allowed for the preservation of river valley wetlands, she believes it is not too late for Pacific Beach marshland recovery, in spite of the original recreational design of Mission Bay. “There is a lot of consciousness out there among young people about the importance of a sustainable environment, and UCSD urban studies programs are very focused on that.”
Sharing control of the marsh with the City of San Diego’s, “Northern Wildlife Preserve,” just to the south of the UCSD reserve, along Crown Point Drive, is a collaborative effort, and Kay believes more “working together” among the many different environmental groups in the area will help greatly. The UCSD marsh reserve was donated to the school by the Kendall family and the Frost Family back in the 1960’s. Kay is convinced that essential information has been gained with experiments and studies in the marsh to better understand the needs and uses of wetlands. For example, she sites a “nitrogen enhancing experiment on native plant species that revealed that some of our native plants don’t thrive any better with increased “fertilization”, that, in fact, they are very adapted to survival in this geographical zone with low input, which is reassuring. Some current graduate projects involve projections of the impact of rising ocean levels on the existing marshes.
Some proposed ideas, such as curb cuts in the sidewalks around the marsh, could bring more rainwater run-off, if we could be sure that poisons (pesticides and weed killers and automobile pollutants) as well as other garbage wouldn’t pollute the marsh, although, as Kay says, some marsh plants are designed to filter and purify toxins.
February 9, 2013, Love Your Wetlands Day and the first annual Rose Creek Festival will combine forces this year in a collaboration of environmental awareness of some of beautiful and wild corners of Pacific Beach. Check their websites for more information, and join in the efforts to re-establish sustainable, and beautiful, watershed and coastal interface lands right in our own backyard.
Sub-Committee is the nom de plume of a Pacific Beach activist.