Plenty more to discuss on interpretive center

Re: “Proposed center in ecological reserve widens rift between state agencies and some environmental groups” (Argonaut, Jan. 31).
I’m glad to see this issue receive attention in the media, but a few clarifications are in order. While I agree with Liza deVilla Ameen that Area C could benefit from improvement, she may not realize that several groups have spent thousands of volunteer hours over many years clearing trash and invasive species from this area. The program is currently run by a group called EcoKids.
Had the Annenberg Foundation reached out to us ahead of their announcement, we could have shared valuable information about the history of the area that they seem to lack.
It has been pointed out that this same project was originally slated for Palos Verdes but was rejected by local residents there. One almost gets the sense that perhaps there is a big chunk of restricted money and that Annenberg simply needs a location that can support a project meeting the criteria of the grant/donation so that they can spend that money.
Whether that is the case or not, the talks leading up to this agreement were anything but transparent. It is a disappointing approach from an organization that has done so much good and whose motto is “Advancing Public Well-Being Through Improved Communication.”
It is also worth noting that the decision to leave the baseball fields in Area C now seems to be final, but that was not previously the case. Several restoration alternatives, as depicted on the project web site, show Area C without ball fields. So it is clear that this newly proposed development will have an impact on the environmental impact report/environmental impact study process for the entire restoration.
It is premature to be talking about completing construction of these facilities. There is a great deal of work to be done evaluating the impact of these structures, and the foundation’s closed approach to the decision-making process so far certainly didn’t give any kind of a head start.
[One minor correction for the record: I am president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust. Tom Francis is our executive director.]
Walter Lamb
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust

 

Seek more suitable place

Re: “Proposed center in ecological reserve widens rift between state agencies and some environmental groups” (Argonaut, Jan. 31).
I found odd the caption under the front page photograph of herons and egrets, “Wetlands birds like these could soon be sharing a section of Area C of the Ballona Wetlands with an interpretive nature center funded by the Annenberg Foundation.” Really? Does that mean that 4-foot-tall water birds can “share” the parking lot and retail space of the interpretive center? I hope Annenberg alerts its custodial staff to the magnitude of Great Blue Heron poop.
There has been too much building in the Ballona Wetlands already. Bulldozing wetlands in order to build a center to educate people about the wetlands, instead of allowing them to look at the real wetlands, is much like the U.S. official during the Vietnam War who told Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.”
Annenberg can certainly find a more ecologically and socially responsible location for the center and should do so.
Frances Longmire
Culver City

 

No damage done with interpretive center

Re: “Proposed center in ecological reserve widens rift between state agencies and some environmental groups” (Argonaut, Jan. 31).
The Friends of Ballona Wetlands supports the planned Annenberg Foundation interpretive center. Anyone is entitled to oppose the center for whatever reasons, but let’s please look at the facts:
The proposed center will displace at most 6 to 12 acres (1-2 percent) of the restoration project area of 600 acres. The proposed Annenberg center will be a community center in a community that has no community center.
Opponents claim that they support a center but advocate that it be placed outside the restoration project area on an additional land purchase. The only additional land available for purchase is prohibitively expensive; no funds are available for such a purchase.
Opponents talk about how paving a few acres over and over would be a constant assault on our coastal wetlands, but this project will permanently reverse a century of abuse to a large part of the historic Ballona Wetlands.
Why is dedicating 1-2 percent of the project area for human visitors a problem? Once this wonderful project is complete there will be no more “Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.”
Matt Horns
Los Angeles

Friends engaged in planning for wetlands center

We at Friends of the Ballona Wetlands read with interest your Jan. 31 piece on the proposed Annenberg Foundation development in the Ballona Wetlands.
As the primary organization currently licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to provide public access to the wetlands, we work closely with the department and its partners on many related watershed issues.
As most of your readers know, we have spent over 35 years working to conserve and improve conditions in the Ballona watershed, and we hope that talks between Annenberg and the CDFW result in a plan that compliments our primary goals: to educate the community about the ecological and cultural importance of the Ballona Wetlands; to play a positive and hands-on role in the continued rehabilitation of the wetlands, including providing for well-regulated public access; and to advocate for sound water use and ecology-related policies within the watershed and the greater L.A. region.
Currently over 9,000 visitors, from pre-K to post-graduate students, community groups and individuals, experience firsthand tours and hands-on restoration projects in the Ballona Wetlands, benefiting from our programs with our partners – L.A. and Santa Monica Bay Audubon chapters who teach upper elementary grades. We will stay proactively engaged with all parties regarding this proposal.
Lisa Fimiani
Executive Director
Friends of Ballona Wetlands
Playa del Rey

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