Says wetlands not ‘in better hands’ with Dept. of Fish & Game

To the Editor,

Regarding the May 28th story in The Argonaut, “Marina Affairs Committee hears update on Ballona Wetlands restoration project, halted in December:”

It is curious that the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) representative presented a Ballona Wetlands proposal to the Marina Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, yet no one from this same department (DFG) has been attending the general public stakeholder meetings. Those devoted to protecting this special jewel in our midst learn details we’ve never heard in the paper; thank goodness for The Argonaut!

It is even more disturbing to hear this same person criticize Ballona naturalist Jonathan Coffin for photographically documenting wildlife at the site without access permission when a DFG official asked many of us to provide such documentation. DFG’s sister agency uses these photos on its Web site.

And finally, what is most upsetting about this situation is that DFG and its allies have already chosen their plan to bulldoze away the wetlands and associated coastal ecosystems before they even have completed biological baseline surveys to know what ecosystems they will be disrupting and what plants and animals they will be annihilating.

We had thought the land would be in better hands once the State acquired it. Apparently, it’s time to mobilize to save the Ballona Wetlands — again.

Marcia Hanscom, Co-Director Ballona Institute

Praises work of Venice Carnevale! poster artist

To the Editor:

Thanks to The Argonaut for the June 4th full cover display of the Venice Carnevale! poster.

This year’s poster is an absolutely wonderful work of art by Jeff Verges. Kudos to the artist and The Argonaut for displaying his work to thousands of readers.

Gene Patrick, Westchester

Concerned about future of SMC’s Emeritus College

To the Editor:

My fellow students and I realize that Emeritus College, which provides intellectual and creative sustenance to seniors in our community, is experiencing hard financial times.

We urge those who are able, to support the college in all ways possible. And I urge Emeritus administrators to retain the heart and soul of our program — such as the one remaining guitar class taught by Jimmy Cheesman, Mary Pillot’s art class and others too numerous to mention here.

Thank you so much.

Marissa Rubin, Santa Monica

Supports ‘a balanced ecosystem approach’ for wetlands project

To the Editor:

Re: article May 28th by Helga Gendell on Ballona Wetlands restoration proposals from the state:

The state’s managers of the Ballona Wetlands have declared their property an “ecological preserve.” This means that all natural resources there are protected. That means that people are told to stay out in order to protect the nature. So it’s extraordinarily contradictory that massive earthmovers could be allowed in an ecological preserve. If the public is not allowed inside, why should we allow heavy earthmovers?

It’s also odd that local citizens who wish to take pictures of the wildlife in order to document its existence in order that it be protected are told by Rick Mayfield, the state’s manager, that they are trespassing, as stated in Gendell’s article. I suppose he will be as insistent when the state’s bulldozers arrive? If he won’t protect the wildlife, the public will!

We support a balanced ecosystem approach for the Ballona Wetlands restoration project. What this means is that as, currently, the almost 600 acres of state land is 49 percent uplands and 48 percent wetlands, we prefer it to stay in roughly those same proportions. Unfortunately, the state’s managers have proposed not a restoration project, but a habitat conversion project. This would, at its worst configuration unveiled last fall, mean that the uplands, which contain our beloved hiking trails, thickets, fragrant sagebrush and wildflowers could be cut with heavy earthmoving equipment down to only 16 percent of the site. An updated version of the restoration plans reduces this threat slightly, but it continues to threaten destruction for most of the uplands at Ballona.

This is not acceptable to the vast majority of the public who have attended planning meetings for the last four years, and to those of us who have devoted well over 20 years to saving the diverse Ballona Wetlands ecosystem.

We are not saying nothing should be done, just that we can bring plenty more water from the ocean into our wetlands and accomplish a lot of “restoration” without destroying the uplands and the loop hiking trails.

We believe that all the reasons that the public loves the Ballona Wetlands preserve should be preserved and enhanced in this restoration plan.

That means that for the uplands north of Ballona Creek, the wildflowers, sagebrush, dense laurel sumac thickets, loop hiking trails, Pacific Electric bridge platforms and sand dune, remnant of Ballona Creek and its saltbush, grasslands, and Little League fields remain.

For the wetlands south of Ballona Creek, this means the pickleweed and mudflats, the freshwater Centinela creek and eucalyptus grove, the far-west sand dune, and the former railroad track berm/trail, remains. Hopefully, the city will one day take back the portion of Cabora Road that the Gas Company has been allowed to fence off, so we will have a continuous three-mile hiking and biking trail south of and overlooking the wetlands.

We believe all the things the public loves at Ballona can be preserved.

But this requires the state’s managers to stop thinking of the land as “theirs”, and to recognize that the Ballona preserve belongs to all of us.

Rex Frankel, director, Ballona Ecosystem Education Project