In a tiny corner of a scruffy lot, birds flock to
a one-woman wetlands restoration project
Cathy Beauregard-Covit discovered this small freshwater wetland when she was looking for a project for her local neighborhood council.
By Tom Politeo
Cathy Beauregard-Covit has been introducing her San Pedro neighbors and community
members to a freshwater wetland that no one knew was there.
People walk, bike and drive by this tiny, unnoticed oasis nestled between industry and homes just below an east-facing slope and a bikeway on a vacant lot that overlooks the L.A. harbor.
Beauregard-Covit, who is a neighborhood council representative in San Pedro, discovered the wetland when she began looking for a beautification project for her council to undertake.
The Port of Los Angeles had recently installed the bikeway along a strip of vacant property that skirts the ports west edge. Unlandscaped and unmaintained, the bikeway runs alongside the large dirt lot strewn with litter and weeds.With the possibility of obtaining city grant money pending approval of the project, Beauregard-Covit took herself on a field trip over the entire parcel. As she went down the slope, she found reeds growing in some freshwater at its base.
The entire wetland is truly postage-stamp sized. Occupying only one corner of a large lot, it is small enough to fit in a backyard.
But despite its petite size, visitors are often greeted by pairs of red-winged
blackbirds perched on the reeds and flying aboutmales with their bright
red epaulets flashing, singing for attention from the plainer, brownish females.
Beauregard-Covit, who also has seen killdeer here, has observed birds nesting
and found some small, recently hatched egg shells. This littlest wetland is
clearly doing its share to help sustain a small community of wildlife.
Recently, the Angeles Chapters Harbor Vision Task Force passed a resolution in support of the efforts to maintain this freshwater habitat and spruce up an adjacent bike path.
As part of her plan to improve the bike path, Beauregard-Covit hopes to increase
the size of the marsh slightly, just enough to fill one odd-shaped corner of
Marine biologist Steve Vogel of the Cabrillo
Aquarium and Museum stressed the importance of preserving such wetlands,
no matter their size, because they provide nature experiences for children,
particularly because such coastal habitat has been largely lost to development.
He said that wetlands like this one played an important role in introducing
him and his colleagues to the wonders of biology.
Beauregard-Covit started tackling one of the sites problemsgarbageon
June 1 by organizing a cleanup of the lot. Thirty volunteers, including several
area Girl Scouts, picked up all the trash in just a few hours.
Now, she plans to restore native vegetation to the vacant lot and along a walkway
that stretches south to nearby Cabrillo Beach. The L.A. Harbor Department, which
runs the port, had initially indicated some opposition to the native planting,
hoping instead to plant grass along the lot.
However, when soil engineers reported that the soil was loose fill dirt and
that the irrigation for a lawn might trigger a slide, they became receptive
to the plan, according to Beauregard-Covit.
Beauregard-Covit, who is originally from Chicagos south side, gathered
photos of the area that date back to the turn of the century to show how the
area has changed over the years.
Based on aerial images that show a small patch of plants clustered in this
area, it appears the wetland has existed for a long time. She also discovered
that the path had been part of a proposed wetland recovery action some 20 years
To spur that recovery, Beauregard-Covit contacted the California
Native Plant Society to seek advice on which native species should be planted
in the area. She hopes that the right plants will help bring back the
butterflies, bugs and birds that would have made this area their home.
She also contacted the nearby Cabrillo Aquarium and Museum and found out that her plans for restoring the marsh and revegetating the bike path would dovetail with programs the aquarium already offers.
According to Vogel, the aquarium maintains a 3.25-acre saltwater marsh, whose
restoration and operation has provided valuable educational experience for youth
and adults. The micro-wetland would provide access to a freshwater habitat.
Where else can you have such an opportunity to take kids to a salt and
freshwater marsh so close to each other? Beauregard-Covit asked.
Its going to take a lot of muscle to pull up the invasive weeds and replace
them with native vegetation. Beauregard-Covit is seeking help from local schools
and various community volunteers to help replant the area.
She also has her eyes set on improving the walkway between the Cabrillo Aquarium and Museum and her small wetland, an area that stretches below the bluffs that once used to be the coastline but has since become landfill for the harbor.
Unlike the barren and weedy edges of the bike path, this walkway is nicely planted. However, it is planted with exotics rather than the native plants Beauregard-Covit envisions. She sees the native plantings as an important part of the educational experience that will one day link the two wetlands.
Vogel agrees, adding that the aquarium is already working to revegetate part
of the walkway that leads from the saltwater marsh to Beauregard-Covits
Beauregard-Covits project would constitute the San Pedro areas third native-plant restoration effort.
The Palos Verdes Land Conservancy and others have been working on one at the new White Point Reserve.
Another is a site on the border with Wilmington where volunteers help restore
Palos Verdes blue butterfly habitat in a location where the once-believed-to-be-extinct
butterfly was found. A fourth native plant restoration project is planned at
the Rancho Palos Verdes border in Friendship Park.
For Beauregard-Covit, its now a waiting game to see if the port will
approve her vision for the tiny wetland.
In the meantime, she is working to tap native-plant experts, complete research on the area and keep motivating volunteers who see the value of protecting this freshwater marsh habitat.