(Editor’s note: This is the third part of a three-part series about the Ballona Wetlands, done specifically for Earth Day, which is April 22. So far City officials have favored illegally-parked residents over preserving the wildlife.)
The Ballona Wetlands, located in Playa Vista, is an environmentally-sensitive area. The road is lined by RVs that are illegally camped, despite signs noting there is no camping and that vehicles will be towed.
To do something about those living in RVs that are destroying a bird habitat is seen as insensitive, despite the fact they are breaking the law.
One person, who used to be a regular at the sanctuary, said he stopped going there out of fear.
It isn’t the homeless that scares him, but the “crazies and the criminals.”
“I was walking from my car to the gate one time about three years ago, and there was a guy, half naked sitting on the ground facing the fence, and screaming, as far as I could tell, … at a bush.”
There have been muggings and the police are called to the area frequently because of drug use and crime. He heard a dead body had been found in the lake.
He said, “I normally carry a knife with me, mostly to open packages or whatever else a knife can be used for as a tool. But in the back of my old man’s brain, is the possibility that if I was confronted by some violent crazy, it might be called upon for more nefarious, but defensive, purposes.”
He said that “about three to four years ago, I was driving past the place and saw someone with a pretty jury-rigged barbeque, with flames reaching pretty high, and too close in my estimation to the shrubs.
I contacted the Ballona wetlands management, and they said they’d contact the authorities to come out and stop it. About a week later (on the other side of the lake), a good chunk of the reserve burned. I’m not saying there was a relation, except that the people living there do not understand, or have the good judgement, to take the appropriate precautions.”
He is a photographer and “I always bring my camera, which is expensive,” and worries someone might try to take it. But once the RVs started parking illegally, limiting access, “None of my birding/photographer pals want to go there, and I don’t really want to go there alone.”
He visited a few weeks ago, the first time in about a year, and once he was inside, “I did enjoy visiting the place.”
The Playa resident said it wasn’t maintained nearly as well as it used to be. “The reeds along the edge of the lake used to be routinely cut back for the health of the ecosystem and you could actually see the lake.
He said that now the reeds had grown in almost everywhere and “The maintenance crews now spend their time and budget maintaining the perimeter of the reserve (fencing and gates) and picking up trash.
“I remember about 10 years ago, when I first started going there, how nice the wooden fence around it was. It’s mostly gone now; burned for firewood. The temporary orange plastic fence now installed has large gaps as does the plant life behind where the fence used to be.”
He said he voted for Bass and still has high hopes for her, but “Given the fragile nature of the wetlands, and the low budget, I wish she would consider Ballona to be worthy of more immediate attention, as it will take many years to restore the damage once the homeless are relocated.”
The resident pointed out that native California plants sleep the first year, creep the second year, and then leap the third year, meaning that they take a long time to take root and flourish.
“Fully functioning ecosystems, even in places where there’s water, can take much longer,” the resident said and added, “the time to fix the problem is now. More developed areas can be cleaned/restored much more quickly.”