$14.5-million renovation debuts with a few jeers but also plenty of cheers

By Gary Walker

Left: The renovated Oxford Basin Lagoon features 750 native trees and 45,000 drought-tolerant plants Right: Local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts pitched in to add a few more plants around the basin after the July 7 eopening ceremony Photos by Martin Zamora

Left: The renovated Oxford Basin Lagoon features 750 native trees and 45,000 drought-tolerant plants
Right: Local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts pitched in to add a few more plants around the basin after the July 7 eopening ceremony
Photos by Martin Zamora

The July 7 public debut of the newly renovated Oxford Basin Lagoon in Marina del Rey was met with a small protest by environmental advocates who had opposed the project as well as praise for the new look from local passersby.

The $14.5-million renovation removed 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the basin, upgraded its flood control capabilities and replaced pre-existing vegetation with 750 native trees and some 45,000 drought-tolerant plants.

The reopening ceremony took place along the segment of the Marvin Braude Bike Path that runs between Oxford Avenue and the 10-acre basin, which is also bounded by Admiralty Way and Washington Boulevard.

L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe kicked off the gathering by putting the renovation in context with the neglected tangle of non-native trees and brush that was previously there.

“We’ve transformed what was once a largely unappreciated plot of land into something that is colorful, vibrant and alive. The Oxford Basin is now not just a park-like amenity that increases the flood safety and water quality in the community, but also a destination for everyone to connect with nature and with each other,” Knabe said.

Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Janet Zaldua said she recently saw a family of ducks swimming in the basin and that she is looking forward to seeing more wildlife — and human visitors — return.

“The proximity of this amenity to our hotels couldn’t be better. It’s wonderful to actually see people sitting on benches in the basin, pointing out native birds and enjoying this warm and inviting environment,” Zaldua said.

Throughout the gathering, however, a handful of protesters with the Airport Marina Group of the Sierra Club waved signs that accused the county of deliberately harming nature by removing the mature trees that had existed in the basin.

Workers felled 650 trees — not all of which were healthy, according to county officials — at the start of work in January 2015.

Armaiti May, a veterinarian and member of the advocacy group Animals and the Environment, said the county destroyed trees that native seabirds had used for nesting.

“These trees were providing crucial habitat for birds and other wildlife, like the osprey and also the Monarch butterfly that used the eucalyptus trees. They’ve planted new trees, but they’re small trees and are going to take decades to be nearly as magnificent as those that they destroyed,” she said.

County officials say wildlife will return as the new trees grow, but May says a lot of damage has been done.

“It’s definitely a disruption, because they’ve been relying upon [these trees] for so many years,” she said. “We’re seeing a growing trend of development in the marina that is compromising wildlife habitat, and that’s disturbing.”

But Marina del Rey resident Bert Zweij, a frequent user of the bike path, said he appreciated the renovation.

“They’ve turned this whole area into something that’s very pleasant. It’s a big improvement,” he said.

Autumn Williams, 11, said she often comes to the marina with her grandmother and likes the new look of Oxford Basin. She’s looking forward to showing the area off to her paternal grandparents when they visit from New York.

“We’ll be able to walk around and I can show them all the different birds that are native to California and show them all the native plants. I noticed that there was a hawk flying around, and that was really cool,” she said. “It looks a lot greener and like everything is coming back to life.”

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