Natural Perspectives: Kayaking to keep Bolsa Chica clean

November 02, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • The kayakers had to traverse Outer Bolsa Bay to get to the shore where the debris was located.
The kayakers had to traverse Outer Bolsa Bay to get to the… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

People need to clean up after getting dirty. Wetlands are no different.

In olden days, storms would flush out our coastal wetlands. Before "civilization" struck, the only debris out there was natural and decomposable. Not any more.

These days, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve fills up with trash, especially after rainstorms. All winter long, plastic and other types of debris accumulate in the salt marsh. Or at least it would if the marsh weren't cleaned out periodically.

A series of rubber dams or floating booms in the Wintersburg Flood Control Channel helps hold back the bulk of the debris. After a storm, crews from Orange County Flood Control bring a truck and fill it up with stuff that has washed down the channel.

I think the idea is to keep trash out of Huntington Harbour. But it also helps keep trash out of outer Bolsa Bay, the body of water that stretches from Warner Avenue south to the tide gates. It keeps debris out of the ocean, too.


The trash that does slip past the booms often accumulates in the cordgrass and pickleweed of the outer bay. This trash can reduce the amount of habitat that is available for nesting of the Belding's savannah sparrow, a state endangered species. There are only about 2,000 breeding pairs of these birds left in the United States, and Bolsa Chica is home to about 10% of the population. Therefore, keeping the bay clean of debris is crucial to their survival.

That's where the Bolsa Chica Conservancy steps in. They organize several kayak cleanups of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve during the winter. Some kayakers are so efficient at gathering trash on cleanup morning that they have too many bags for just one trip. Those hardworking souls end up making several trips.

Patrick Scott, a naturalist with the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, organizes the cleanups with the permission of the California Department of Fish and Game. It is important to point out that recreational boating is not allowed in the ecological reserve. The kayakers wear fluorescent vests over their life vests to indicate that they are working. Malibu Rentals donated some of the kayaks. But some people, like Ross Griswold and Larry Rolewic, brought their own kayaks.

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