Long Beach, like the rest of California, has lost most of its wetlands, but local environmentalists want to help people see the potential to restore those that remain.
The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust hopes to build awareness and enthusiasm around protecting Long Beach’s wetlands by showing them off via guided walks and kayak tours.
On a recent Sunday, more than a dozen people turned out at Mother’s Beach to launch kayaks (provided by the wetlands land trust) and paddle around Steamshovel Slough, an offshoot of the Los Cerritos Channel east of Pacific Coast Highway.
With pleasure boats lining part of the route and a backdrop of oil-drawing horseheads silently bobbing, it’s hard to forget Long Beach is a predominantly urban environment.
But nature hasn’t given up: As they navigate through a maze of marsh grasses, kayakers will likely spot cormorants and the occasional pelican sunning themselves on floats and docks, and Great Egrets can be found stalking fish in the shallows.
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“Wetlands are really key to our local biodiversity,” said Katie Dressendorfer, the Los Cerritos Wetlands Trust’s public outreach coordinator.
“They have a ton of plant species, endangered plants, endangered animals, pollinators, and they really act as nurseries for small fish and small organisms to grow and to thrive and go back out to the ocean. And they’re also along the Great Pacific migratory flyway. So they support a lot of birds who are migrating and making their way up and down the coast.”
Though the wetlands is surrounded by development and has seen the spread of invasive plant species, there’s some good news: A state grant of $31.8 million was recently awarded to the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, a joint powers government agency that will oversee several restoration projects in coming years.
Dressendorfer’s group, a community nonprofit, is working to ensure as many acres of the wetlands as possible are preserved or returned to a natural state, and to help restore the estuary by cleaning up trash, pulling weeds and replanting native species. It also leads kayak tours in spring and fall and regular walking tours, and for those willing to get their hands dirty, there’s a monthly volunteer day.
The hope is that people will become aware of the wetlands in their midst and “learn that they’re valuable, and kind of be able to visualize how our wetlands that are remaining can be restored and be reopened back to tidal flow and have all these great plants and birds and all the fun things that everyone likes to see,” Dressendorfer said.
Find information on the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, wetlands tours and ways to get involved at lcwlandtrust.org.