Colorado Lagoon reconnected to the ocean through Alamitos Bay as envisioned by FOCL. Image courtesy of Zell Office of Landscape Architecture.

Shortly after the Long Beach Airport was recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Colorado Lagoon was also awarded, marking Long Beach’s second acknowledgement this year from the esteemed society.

A Planning and Analysis Merit Award was given to Jennifer Zell of Zell Office of Landscape Architecture (ZoLA) for the Friends of Colorado Lagoon (FOCL) Landscape Vision Plan [full document below], a 41-page document that soon became the tangible landscaping design for the lagoon. Additionally, FOCL also received the Public Stewardship Award for its contribution to improving Southern California’s natural landscapes.

Zell teamed with restoration expert and ecologist Eric Zahn of Tidal Influence to produce this plan.

“The document serves as a guide for the careful integration of native habitats, trails, interpretation elements, and landscape features into the Lagoon,” said Zell. “It has become a useful tool for providing strategic and visionary development of programs and facilities within the Colorado Lagoon.

What is once again a beaming jewel of the city, the Lagoon is one of the few remaining coastal salt marshes on the West Coast. It was home to the 1932 U.S. Olympic trials, where its transformation for the trials disconnected it from Alamitos Bay via the creation of Colorado Street and subsequent bridge over the tidal connection. Once part of the 2,400-acre Los Cerritos, it had enjoyed open connection to the tidal flows in nearby Alamitos Bay. In the 1960s, with an increase in urbanization, an underground culvert was created but prevented full tide drainage and following the many storm drains which dump into the lagoon, led to its pollution.

By the late 1990s, the once-flourishing recreation destination and wildlife habitat was instead filled with what Heal the Bay continually graded some of the dirtiest water on the West Coast. The Colorado Lagoon was continually making lists of the state’s most polluted water bodies, with elevated levels of harmful chemicals and bacteria. In coordination with the City of Long Beach, the community-based restoration of the Colorado Lagoon has been ongoing since 2008.

Jurors for the awards included, Denise Ashton, Planner at WHA Architects; Lynn Capouya, Landscape Architect at Lynn Capouya Landscape Architects; Dave Watts, Assistant Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; John Leehy, Director of Planning at Danielian Architecture; Chuck DeGarmo, Valley Crest Landscape Development; Ron Running, City of Hemet; and Mark Steyaert, Principal at MSLA.