Twenty-five years ago, Gordon Smith banded together with fellow environmentalists and set out to acquire and restore the remaining wetlands in Huntington Beach.
Now, Smith may be on the verge of knocking down the last barrier to his goal.
California recently began the process of unloading the Newland Marsh, a 44-acre property at Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway that comprises the final stretch of wetlands that Smith's nonprofit, Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, has yet to take over.
If that transaction is settled, the wetlands conservancy plans to remove a portion of the levee that separates the marsh from the ocean. A few swings from the wrecking ball, and the mission Smith has pursued without pay since 1985 will be complete.
"These wetlands seem to have a biological memory," said Smith, chairman of the wetlands conservancy's board of directors. "As soon as ocean water comes back in, the habitat restores itself in a matter of months."