More than 60 student volunteers from UCLA joined local wetlands advocates from the Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute as part of a nationwide remembrance and volunteer service day to commemorate the September 11th, 2001 tragedies.

Coordinated by the university’s Office of Residential Life, the volunteers gathered at the Ballona Creek Estuary on the anniversary to spend a few hours cleaning up, protecting and restoring some of the area’s coastal wetlands and dune habitat.

“The goal was for students to go beyond simply picking up trash, although that was part of the exercise, and to do things that would enhance the ecological areas of the Los Angeles coast,” explained Jennifer Verhines, an intern from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) who worked with the Ballona Institute this summer.

“In this spirit, students enthusiastically planted native dune plants, watered local grasses in a butterfly sanctuary with salt water, mended fences and reinforced a sand dune.”

Verhines, a longtime resident of a section of Marina del Rey near the Ballona Lagoon, said she specifically sought out the Ballona Institute this year due to her love for the wetlands areas, where she has spent much of her life.

“Jennifer took on the organizing of this event with vigor, and she received some great experience in the process,” said Robert “Roy” van de Hoek, conservation biologist and co-director of Ballona Institute.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office also assisted with coordination of the event, according to van de Hoek.