'It's a precious open space'

The three nonprofit groups that oversee the Bolsa Chica wetlands and mesa recently banded together to educate the public about the area's natural resources.

Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust hosted their annual Earth Day event Saturday at the reserve's interpretive center, where dozens of people learned about the area's history, animal life and vegetation as well as how to be more environmentally conscious.

"The idea behind Earth Day is to get the whole community to have a better understanding of the world we live in, the natural resources, our connections to it, and what we do as individuals to live in it and protect it," said Grace Adams, executive director of the conservancy.

Though the environmental holiday is observed April 22, Adams said every day should be Earth Day.

Throughout the day, volunteers from the conservancy gave guided tours of the mesa and guided people through water tests to view phytoplankton, organisms in the wetlands that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Meanwhile, at the event grounds, members of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which aims to preserve the open area, focused on teaching visitors about restoration efforts, including its junior stewards program, which encourages younger students to get their hands dirty and help restore the mesa and wetlands, said Kim Kolpin, executive director of the trust.

"A lot of kids were coming out, but they weren't getting involved," said Sage Kolpin, Kim's daughter and head of the program. "So we're focusing on teaching them how to plant and trying to get them to be a part of the program."

Sage used her iPad to show visitors the live web cam feed of the western snowy plover and the California least tern nesting sites, which were introduced to the wetlands in 2013.

At a nearby tent, members from the Amigos de Bolsa Chica educated the public about the wetlands and mesa's history, as well the relationship between the local birds and the tides.

"In high tides, the mud flat is covered, and there's not many birds," said Jerry Donohue, president of the Amigos and a birding enthusiast. "Low tides means the mud flats are exposed, and the shorebirds can come in there and peck in the mud for some dinner."

Donohue hopes that Saturday's visitors will be encouraged to come back to Bolsa Chica and soak in what the ecological reserve has to offer.

"It's a precious open space with vistas that you can look hundreds of yards ... and there's not billboard or a house in sight," he said.

Louis Robles Jr., a tribal member of the Acjachemen Nation, educated people about the Native Americans who lived in the area hundreds of years ago.

He talked about the importance of respecting resources, as the Acjachemen and Gabrielino-Tongva tribes did, and the historical significance of the area. Bolsa Chica mesa is believed to be home to hundreds of artifacts as well as Native American remains.

"We're here to celebrate what we have, to remember what we've lost, and remind people that no matter who they are or where they come from, that Bolsa Chica is a treasure for everyone," Robles said. "The Native Americans say that what you're doing today, you're doing for seven generations. So everything you do, you have to think of the seventh generation to come."

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