Protecting Nature in Huntington Beach: The Bolsa Chica Land Trust

I see a lot more families these days out on the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve trails, and it reminds me of how my family started our involvement with this special place. I can’t believe it was almost twelve years ago.  My son was 8, and a new school friend asked him to come out with her to volunteer at Bolsa Chica.  They would get to dig in the dirt and plant things and get wet and maybe see a snake.  That hit all the right buttons. My son and daughter, who came too, did all those things and more for the next 10 years. As a family we learned to love and care for this special place because of the dedicated community of volunteers we met there. My kids are now 20 and 23, and while they don’t have as much time to volunteer, I now work for the organization that gave my family so much – The Bolsa Chica Land Trust (BCLT).

The story of BCLT has always been a story about the future.  The future of a small part of the rare 5% of coastal salt marsh ecosystem remaining in California, an important wildlife habitat in this urbanized coastal area, and a sacred place for local Native Americans.  It was the idea of saving this special place from the threat of massive development that spurred the creation of BCLT in 1992.  Without grassroots, community-based efforts the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve would have been lost to development and habitat degradation. Its historic, cultural, and environmental significance gone forever.  We still believe it is our duty to protect, preserve, restore, educate, and fundraise in order to protect Bolsa Chica for the future. 

Surrounded by the dense urban setting of Huntington Beach, Bolsa Chica continues faces many threats – pollution, biological degradation, destruction of the 9,000-year-old Native American sacred site, and climate change, especially sea level rise.  So, BCLT continues its commitment and resolve to care for it through hands-on community-based habitat restoration to increase habitat and biodiversity, educating students and the public with tours and outreach so everyone can learn about and understand the importance of this successful example of open space preservation and restoration, including the way Bolsa Chica connects to the wider world.  

With thousands of members, BCLT leads the environmental non-profit advocacy for protecting and preserving the cultural and environmental treasures of the entire Bolsa Chica ecosystem as open space.  As the most successful group in bringing funding and awareness of the continued need for acquisition, improvement, and maintenance of Bolsa Chica’s upland mesas as well as the lowland wetlands, unlike the Amigos de Bolsa Chica nor the BC Conservancy.

It is through strong community commitment and involvement, along with government support, that the Bolsa Chica Land Trust’s vision of a thriving, healthy, and sustainable ecosystem for the entire Bolsa Chica can be assured.  A lot of work lies ahead, BUT there is hope for Bolsa Chica, and other coastal open spaces, when we work together.  Learn more or join the Bolsa Chica Land Trust at www. BCLandTrust.org  

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