About Bolsa Chica
The mission of the Amigos de Bolsa Chica is to advocate the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of the Bolsa Chica, to encourage the public acquisition of all the wetlands and sufficient surrounding open space to create a viable ecosystem, and to provide education about the importance of wetlands.
Who We Are
Amigos de Bolsa Chica is a non-profit volunteer organization formed in 1976 by a group of local residents to protect the Bolsa Chica wetlands from development. Concerned about the loss of wetlands, we pledged to protect, preserve and acquire the Bolsa Chica and surrounding open space and to provide education about the importance of wetlands.
We achieved major reductions to the development plans and spearheaded an effort that resulted in the state's acquisition in 1997 of 880 acres of wetlands. The public now owns over 1200 acres of wetland/lowland. Trails include a footbridge over the wetland where visitors can observe underwater life, see many kinds of marsh plants and a wide variety of birds. A walk along Bolsa Chica mesa provides a dramatic view of Bolsa Chica State Beach, the Outer Bolsa Bay ecosystem, and the coastal sage plant communities.
A large portion of a major lowland restoration project was completed in 2006. Almost immediately, fish and bird populations thrived as never before. Ridgway’s Clapper Rail (formerly known as the Light-footed Clapper Rail), an endangered species, recently began breeding at Bolsa Chica. Designated as an Important Birding Area by the National Audubon Society, Bolsa Chica is a year-round home and nesting area for many species of birds as well as an important resting place for birds during migration. It is also a nursery and a year-round home for many species of fish and aquatic creatures. With 90% of California’s wetlands gone, Bolsa Chica helps to preserve our state’s threatened biodiversity.
Our Amazing Volunteers – the Superheroes of the Wetlands
Amigos de Bolsa Chica volunteers understand that we have a stake in the environmental health of our community. We come from all walks of life including retirees, teachers, engineers, scientists, photographers, artists and business owners. We work together to lift the concept of volunteerism to the level of true inspiration and celebration. Without the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the wetlands and beach would have become an exclusive marina surrounded by waterfront homes. Since 1976 our volunteers have accomplished many things for Bolsa Chica.
In the area of activism and advocacy:
- We have attended and often spoke before all hearings of Coastal Commission that involved the Bolsa Chica.
- We have spoken before city and county planning commissions and city council and county board of supervisors on matters that affect the Bolsa Chica.
- We testified at legislative committee hearings in Sacramento regarding coastal protection, wetland and wildlife legislation.
- We have monitored plans for nearby development that would impact on the Bolsa Chica wetlands and providing written and oral comments to permitting agencies.
- We sponsored a major letter writing campaign in support of the State Lands Commission's acquisition of 880 acres of Bolsa Chica wetlands in 1997.
- We have provided written and oral comments to state and federal agencies regarding the design and implementation of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands restoration plans.
For our efforts to inform the community:
- We have sponsored many general information meetings to keep the public up to date on acquisitions and restoration in the Bolsa Chica.
- We have sponsored technical workshops for Federal, State and local officials on the value of wetlands.
- We published a 700 page oral history, Saving the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
- We held "The Conference on Bolsa Chica: The Work Isn't Finished" on March 24, 2007.
- We joined the California State Parks Cooperating Association in partnership with Bolsa Chica State Beach to bring attention to the relationship between the ocean and wetlands.
- We are actively monitoring Bolsa Chica restoration projects.
For our ongoing education efforts:
- We have provided private and public docent-led walking tours of the wetlands and off-site programs for schools, clubs, tourists and other organizations for over 30 years.
- We have provided annual docent training in unique Bolsa Chica specific coursework.
- We created the Coastal Wetlander Activity Book and won a bronze medal from the Independent Book Publishers Association in the Children’s Interactivity category for it.
- We created the FLOW (Follow and Learn about the Ocean and Wetlands) program to monitor water quality in the wetland and ocean.
- We published Bolsa Chica, Its History from Prehistoric Times to the Present written by Dr. David Carlberg.
The Opportunities Ahead
Much has been accomplished since 1976 – and we have much more work left to do. Amigos de Bolsa Chica’s two most urgent goals are to bring attention to the long-term maintenance and future phases of wetland restoration, and equally important, to attract volunteers who are interested in helping educate the public about the importance of healthy wetlands and oceans and the connections between them. Restoration is dynamic, living process with an important role for the community. Accomplishing restoration makes the community more livable, and it brings nature into one’s backyard. As a nursery for fish and a migratory bird stopover, Bolsa Chica connects the community to the far corners of the world.
Periodic removal of accumulated sediment at the ocean inlet is imperative for the maximum tidal flushing that keeps the wetlands healthy. It is also costly, and it is uncertain how long the State of California can afford to do it. The opportunity to restore 300 acres of now degraded wetland occupied by active oil operations to their former full tidal habitat when the oil company completes its work is also on the horizon. Funding for this phase of restoration is uncertain, but it is imperative that volunteers like the Amigos de Bolsa Chica are around to ensure the Bolsa Chica is properly restored and maintained.
How You Can Get Involved
In our almost 40 year history, we know that the most effective way to preserve and maintain a valuable natural resource such as the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is through community involvement. If you are interested in birding, fisheries, photography or coastal wetland restoration projects in general, considering being an Amigos volunteer. If you are a retiree, a high school student or a college student who may need credit for community services projects, consider volunteering with Amigos. If you are a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout in need of projects, a church group, or simply an individual interested in raising environmental awareness, consider volunteering in any aspect of Amigos de Bolsa Chica.
Volunteers can participate with Amigos de Bolsa Chica in a number of ways: become a docent to lead wetland tours; become a citizen scientist to collect and analyze ocean and wetland water samples for plankton (the base of the ocean food web) health; teach water quality analysis to visiting classrooms and State Beach campers; learn about native and drought tolerant plants through hands on planting and maintenance; help with monthly trash clean-ups; meet with officials from governmental agencies; and train and motivate other volunteers. Volunteers are vital for the strength and success of any environmental organization, and Amigos de Bolsa Chica volunteers have been primarily responsible for ensuring the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve can be sustained by both the state of California and concerned citizens.
Amigos de Bolsa Chica Board of Directors
President: Jerry Donohue
Vice President: Charles Falzon
Secretary: Shirley Dettloff
Treasurer: Brian Westcott
Immediate Past President: Tom Livengood