Saturday, June 23, 2012

Malibu Lagoon: Paradise Lost

Save Malibu Lagoon Supporters on Peaceful Walk
For the last eight years when I have been staying in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, Malibu Lagoon has been my Paradise.  This Paradise has now been raped, despite enormous efforts of Save Malibu Lagoon , environmentalists, scientists and even Malibu City Council.  More about that later, but first this is my personal Celebration of the Lagoon.

Many hours of my childhood were spent by Scottish lochs, picnicking and watching birds.  Although certainly much warmer, Malibu Lagoon fulfilled this remembered idyll.  I would take sandwiches and my camera, and wander down winding paths through undergrowth, rich with plants and shrubs and nostalgic smells:


Always there was the excitement of wondering what/who you would come across round each corner- sometimes a Great Egret taking a stroll:

 Sometimes a rabbit, hiding in the undergrowth:

Then I would arrive at the bank on the North West side of the Lagoon- so near the Pacific Coast Highway, but you might be miles away...There I would sit on a tuft of grass, in Heaven, gazing around was always different, always unexpected.  When the Brown Pelicans were about there was the constant loud report of them landing on the water and beating their wings, thus creating a musical beat in the background.  Here are some sitting together:

    Cormorants were a constant visitor, always stretching out their wings to shake the water off:

 And just a few weeks ago, there was a Mallard with her nine ducklings- how are they now, I wonder?

  Ahead of me, there was the little island, nearly always occupied: 

 And beyond the island, there was the busy beach, with colourful, out of scale bathers and surfers:

The Heron family- the Great Blue Heron, the Black Crowned Night Heron, the Snowy Egret and the Great Egret- are among my favourite birds and were a constant delight.  Here is the Great Blue Heron:

Here are Great Egrets fishing:

 Now they are joined by a Black Crowned Night Heron:

  Two of the Night Herons, waiting patiently for food:

 So many amazing birds- I've just shown a few...

When I took these last photos, I knew they were probably the final ones I would take before this Paradise for me and the birds was demolished.  Sure enough, when I next went, 6' high fences, covered in tarpaulin, had been erected all round the perimeters and I was faced with this notice:

 Restoration and ENHANCEMENT??  California State Parks, backed by the California Coastal Commission, seem to think this is so...they want to turn it into some sort of sterile, concrete Amusement Park.  Their excuse for dredging the lagoon is the contaminated water but scientists say their plan will not solve it, the contamination coming from the hills above.  Somehow, they can bypass laws- laws protecting birds in the nesting season, laws protecting endangered species- in this case: the Tidewater Goby fish, the Least Terns and the Snowy Plovers- all of whom seem to be able to survive the contamination...

The bulldozers were not then yet in action, but last Sunday- June 17th- I went again- so very, very sad- and this is only the beginning....

 One of their first actions was to uproot 7 Sycamore (London Plane) trees- proudly announcing that the trees were going to remain on the site, some in the water for birds to perch on and some as park benches...likewise, we were told all forms of wildlife were being rescued- really?  Above and below are the remains of the trees:

 Piles of earth and discarded undergrowth everywhere, and below you can see one of the delightful wooden bridges that lead you through the centre of the lagoon on your way to the beach- they are being removed too:

  And finally, this wasteland....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Santa Monica City Hall: Junipers Last Days

In October 2011,  I wrote at some length of the lost fight to save Santa Monica's magnificent, sculptural Juniper trees- see Link.   Sadly, in the next few days these trees will be gone.  The four trees flanking the entrance now have the dreaded red-taped "Tree Removal Notification" attached to them:

This means they will be cut down- it being declared their roots are too intertwined with the structure of the building to re-locate them.  The two trees towards the sidewalk will be re-located to a new park that is being built.  Thus a wonderful city image will be lost- these fantastic, wild, dark silhouettes against the very elegant white Art Deco (or Deco Moderne) Landmarked building, to be replaced by a nondescript landscape design.  Here are some images of what we are losing:

Apart from the visual impact of the Junipers, they are valuable environmentally, being evergreen, drought tolerant and sustainable. Their replacements will be deciduous pollarded Western Sycamores...

Although yesterday I joined fellow Treesavers in a demonstration to mark the removal of these trees, we were unable to make an Appeal to save them, owing to a clause in the new Urban Forest Master Plan (which I, among others, objected to at meetings).  This states that: "Tree removal appeals do not apply to trees that have been identified for removal as a part of a City initiated public improvement project as defined in the Urban Forest Master Plan".

Apart from the loss of the Junipers, I find it hard to understand the designer has been permitted to replace with a "water feature" the Rose Garden that leads up to the entrance .  This was planted by the Gold Star Mothers on Armistice Day in 1951- in memory of local men killed in the 2nd World War.  One redeeming fact is that the roses are going to be given away (following in the steps of Treesavers' "Tree-for-all") this Saturday.