In the Pipeline: To Bolsa Chica, with love

February 15, 2012|By Chris Epting
  • A great blue heron at the Bolsa Chica wetlands.
A great blue heron at the Bolsa Chica wetlands. (Chris Epting )

This week we're talking historic milestones.

First of all, Valentine's Day marks the 15th anniversary of the major state acquisition in Bolsa Chica, which tripled the size of the state ecological reserve. And last month was the 20th anniversary of the Bolsa Chica mural being created (at 5811 McFadden Ave.). And the Amigos de Bolsa Chica was officially incorporated in 1976, 36 years ago. So I thought I'd first catch up with some of the founding members involved with the rescuing of Bolsa Chica.

Shirley Dettloff told me that she didn't think when she began this journey that most of her adult life would be spent in saving and then seeing the restoration of Bolsa Chica. She said they all spent endless hours lobbying elected officials to do the right thing, educating the public to the importance of wetlands, providing educational programs and never, ever forgetting how important it was to save this invaluable resource.


Laws, through the Clean Water Act, the state's Coastal Act and many other federal and state laws, slowly started to protect wetlands.

"Many Amigos who started at the very beginning have lived through these changes and were a part of making these monumental protections," Dettloff said. "Now, every time I drive past the Bolsa Chica, I see something that I felt might be impossible in my lifetime, the restoration of one of the largest wetlands in California, a tribute to the hard work and dedication of those Amigos who had a dream and then worked to make it reality."

I asked Margaret Carlberg about some her finest memories involving Bolsa Chica. She described in wonderful detail how, at 5 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2006, standing on the PCH bridge, she watched the steam shovels remove the sand bar and let the Pacific Ocean flow into the full tidal basin for the first time in 107 years.

She was filled with amazement and awe at what the planning team and engineers had created in the nine years since the 1997 Valentine's Day state purchase of 880 acres of Bolsa Chica wetlands.

"At that moment," she said, "a sense of real pride swept through me, as I realized that for more than 35 years I had played an active role in helping this to happen."

Thanks to these efforts, we now have 1,314 protected acres in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

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