Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Last updated
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Bolsa Chica State Beach Photo D Ramey Logan.jpg
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Bolsa Chica State Beach
Usa edcp relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Location California, United States
Nearest city Huntington Beach, California
Coordinates 33°41′59″N118°02′20″W / 33.69972°N 118.03889°W / 33.69972; -118.03889 Coordinates: 33°41′59″N118°02′20″W / 33.69972°N 118.03889°W / 33.69972; -118.03889
AreaOver 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) [1]
Established1979 [1]
Governing body California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Bolsa Chica State Ecological Reserve is natural public land in Orange County, governed by the state of California, and immediately adjacent to the city of Huntington Beach, California. [2] The reserve is designated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to protect a coastal wetland and upland, with both migratory and resident threatened and endangered species of wildlife and wildflowers.

Contents

The western boundary of the ecological reserve abuts two other state agency lands of State Highway #1 (Pacific Coast Highway) managed by Cal Trans and the California State Department of Parks and Recreation (Bolsa Chica State Beach).

The term bolsa chica means "little bag" in Spanish, as the area was part of a historic Mexican land grant named Rancho La Bolsa Chica. [1] The reserve is also called many other names, including Bolsa Chica Lowlands, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge.

History

The history of Bolsa Chica is a long and varied one. The earliest peoples were the native Indians of California. Archaeologists have found cog stones which date back 8,000 years and are the only surviving relic of the Indian lifestyle. Their exact purpose is unknown, but speculation has centered on religious or astronomical use. Cog stones can be seen at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

Once Spain colonized California, Spanish officials created vast land grants called ranchos. One such grant, Rancho Los Nietos, was given to Manuel Nieto. After Nieto died, the grant was partitioned in 1834 into five Mexican ranchos including Rancho Las Bolsas. Rancho La Bolsa Chica was separated from Rancho Las Bolsas in 1841. The grant was later owned by Abel Stearns.

Prior to 1899, there had been a natural ocean entrance to the wetlands where the East Garden Grove Wintersburg Channel, then a small stream, is now located. [3] In 1899, the Bolsa Chica Gun Club was formed by a group of wealthy businessmen from Los Angeles and Pasadena. The duck-hunting club catered to politicians and celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. [4] They built a two-story structure on a mesa overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Gun Club is responsible for damming off of Bolsa Chica from direct tidal flow with the ocean.

In July 1920, the Standard Oil Company entered a lease agreement with the Gun Club Board of Directors that would allow for them to begin oil extraction in between and around the Bolsa Wetlands. This contract specified that the initial bonus of $100,000 and subsequent revenues would be split 50/50 between the Bolsa Chica Gun Club and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. Upon receipt of this money, it was then to be invested into “good, interest-bearing securities” (Board of Directors Meeting Jun 11, 1920).

In January 1921, in order to protect their newly acquired capital, the Gun Club assembled an investigative committee to complete a legal report that assessed the land title’s specifics in respect to protection from outside parties encroaching upon their tide and marshlands for oil drilling. The organization also wished to inquire as to whether they should pursue a specific title that would clearly define their rights in regard to oil drilling.

In the 1940s, it was feared that Japan would attack California. So the U.S. military constructed two bunkers at Bolsa Chica to defend the coastline. Gun turrets were also mounted on the mesa, but were fired only for testing purposes. The larger of the two bunkers was demolished in 1995. The smaller support bunker still exists but is closed off from public access. All that is left of the turrets are their circular frame.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is the site of two large concrete Panama-style mounts for Fort MacArthur's southernmost batteries. Panama Mount.jpg
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is the site of two large concrete Panama-style mounts for Fort MacArthur's southernmost batteries.

In the 1960s, most of Bolsa Chica was acquired by Signal Landmark, and plans for a massive housing development and marina were released. State officials objected, and so in 1970 the developer set aside 300 acres (1.2 km2) alongside Pacific Coast Highway to create the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. This action satisfied state officials but not members of the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women, who decided to create a new group, Amigos de Bolsa Chica ("Friends of Bolsa Chica"), to save and preserve more of the wetlands. Amigos were founded in 1976, and the 20-year battle to save the wetlands began. [5]

In 1990, the Amigos and the developer, now called Hearthside Homes, entered a joint agreement to create the Bolsa Chica Conservancy. The conservancy's mission is to educate the public about the importance of wetlands.

The size of Hearthside Homes’ development decreased over the years. In 1992, the Bolsa Chica Land Trust was formed by individuals who thought more of Bolsa Chica should be saved from development than just the wetlands. The upland habitat provided nesting, shelter, and food for egrets, herons, and raptors that also used the wetlands.

View of the reserve from offshore. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve from 3,500 ft., view to the north.jpg
View of the reserve from offshore.

In 1997, the Amigos' long-awaited goal of preserving the wetlands was reached when the state of California purchased 880 acres (3.6 km2) of Hearthside Homes’ holdings. Restoration would come seven years later at a cost of $147 million which opened an inlet to the Pacific Ocean for the first time since being dammed in 1899 was completed in 2006. [6]

In November 2000, the California Coastal Commission, which regulates development along the state's coastline, ruled that development had to be limited to the upper half ("upper bench") of the Bolsa Chica mesa because the lower half ("lower bench") was too valuable as habitat. Koll—now called Hearthside Homes—sued. The case was eventually dismissed. The developer contributed to the campaign of bond measure Proposition 50, which included specific language to purchase land at Bolsa Chica. Proposition 50 passed, and the state ended up purchasing 118 acres (0.48 km2) of the lower bench, closing escrow in December 2005. Hearthside was free to develop the upper bench, and their 379-unit project (whittled down from the 5,000+ plan of the 1960s) broke ground in 2006. [7]

An additional 56 acres (0.23 km2) of uplands still remains in private ownership and is being considered for development. Ongoing hearings are being held[ when? ] with the California Coastal Commission. [8]

In November 2018, the Bolsa Chica Land Trust raised $1,000,000 to secure the Ridge and Goodell properties, totaling 11.1 acres (0.045 km2), which will prevent the land from being sold to a real estate developer to build townhouses, instead will be preserved, protected and restored. [9]

Setting

The tidal marsh and estuary of the wetlands Bolsa Chica Wetland Reserves.jpg
The tidal marsh and estuary of the wetlands

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve boundaries are Warner Avenue to the north, Seapoint Avenue to the south, Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to the west, and residential development to the east.

There are two small parking lots: the north lot southeast of the intersection of Warner and PCH, and the south lot on PCH across from the entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach. The north lot contains the Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center. It is the starting point for the Mesa Trail, which leads to the overlook and rest stop at Mesa Point. The south lot is the starting point for the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) Loop Trail, which crosses a wooden bridge, passes two overlooks, and returns to the parking lot via a sand-dune trail paralleling PCH.

The East Garden Grove Wintersburg Channel runs through the Reserve. Beginning in December 2007, flood control improvements were made by the County of Orange to reinforce the levees damaged in the rains of 2005 and protect the wetlands. [10] In addition, the Newport–Inglewood Fault goes through the reserve.

Interpretive Center

The Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center is located in the North Parking Lot of the reserve. Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center.jpg
The Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center is located in the North Parking Lot of the reserve.

Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Bolsa Chica Conservancy Interpretive Center offers live animal exhibits, aquaria, maps and information about Bolsa Chica and education programs on wetland science. The main room’s exhibits include live marine life species native to Bolsa Chica and the southern California coast, including bat stars, ochre stars, giant-spined stars, warty sea cucumbers, Kellet’s whelks, chestnut cowries, striped shore crabs, and California spiny lobster. A second exhibit room includes live reptiles such as California kingsnakes, San Diego gopher snake, coastal rosy boa, two-striped garter snakes, and alligator lizards. Throughout the center there are many examples of taxidermy including opossums, snakes and birds such as the great blue heron, California brown pelican, Cooper’s hawk, red-shouldered hawk, and Anna’s hummingbird.

Community Involvement

A southerly view toward the footbridge BCwetlandsWalkway.JPG
A southerly view toward the footbridge

Approximately 30,000 people visit the reserve each year. [11] Hiking, photography, and birdwatching are popular activities at the reserve.

There are special regulations in force for the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve:

Tours

Free public tours are offered each month by three organizations at Bolsa Chica:

Amigos de Bolsa Chica

The Amigos offer a number of programs to advocate the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of Bolsa Chica, emphasizing longstanding advocacy, community awareness efforts, and ongoing restoration. Some of the Amigos’ most popular community-based programs include:

Bolsa Chica Conservancy

Bolsa Chica Conservancy hosts numerous after school and volunteer programs to encourage ecological participation, awareness and environmental action. In addition to community-building leadership and education programs, The Bolsa Chica Conservancy focuses its non-profit efforts on research and restoration:

Bolsa Chica Land Trust

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust offers education and volunteer programs which encourage hands-on involvement with the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Highlights of their community programming include:

Wildlife

The black-necked stilt is one of the Reserve's seasonal occupants. WanderingStilt.jpg
The black-necked stilt is one of the Reserve's seasonal occupants.

Among the wildlife in the reserve are the shovelnose guitarfish, [12] grey smooth-hound sharks, [12] California halibut, [13] and white seabass. [13] There are also snakes in the grassy areas of the wetlands, ranging from harmless kingsnakes and gopher snakes in various colors to rattlesnakes, including western diamondbacks and Pacific rattlesnakes.[ citation needed ] Other wildlife include western fence lizard, cottontail rabbit, Beechey ground squirrel, and coyotes. [11]

In spring and fall, the reserve is home to many migratory birds. [14] As many as 321 out of Orange County's 420 bird species have been sighted at the reserve in the past decade. [15] Bird species at the reserve include the endangered light-footed rail, [16] snowy plover, Savannah sparrow, least tern, Caspian tern, great blue heron, snowy egret, double-crested cormorant, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, and California gnatcatcher. [11] [6]

Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) grows in the wetland water predominately during springtime. Bolsa Chica sea lettuce.png
Sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) grows in the wetland water predominately during springtime.

See also

Related Research Articles

Huntington Beach, California City in California, United States

Huntington Beach is a seaside city in Orange County in Southern California, located 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. The city is named after American businessman Henry E. Huntington. The population was 189,992 during the 2010 census, making it the fourth most populous city in Orange County, the most populous beach city in Orange County, and the seventh most populous city in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is bordered by Bolsa Chica Basin State Marine Conservation Area on the west, the Pacific Ocean on the southwest, by Seal Beach on the northwest, by Westminster on the north, by Fountain Valley on the northeast, by Costa Mesa on the east, and by Newport Beach on the southeast.

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Bolsa Chica State Beach is a public ocean beach in Orange County, California, United States. It is located north of Huntington Beach and south of the community of Sunset Beach.

Sunset Beach, California Neighborhood of Huntington Beach in Orange, California, United States

Sunset Beach is a Huntington Beach beachfront community in Orange County, California. It was established on September 8, 1904 and developed as a result of the 1920 discovery of oil in the Huntington Beach Oil Field. The census-designated place of Sunset Beach and its population of 971 as of the 2010 census was annexed by Huntington Beach in 2011. The elevation is 5.3 feet above sea level and the community is stretched out along Pacific Coast Highway bracketed by the ocean and Huntington Harbour.

The California State Coastal Conservancy is a state agency in California established in 1976 to enhance coastal resources and public access to the coast. The CSCC is part of the California Natural Resources Agency.

Ballona Wetlands

The Ballona Wetlands State Ecological Reserve are located in Los Angeles County, California, just south of Marina del Rey and east of Playa del Rey. The natural wetlands once included the areas now taken up by Marina del Rey, New Amsterdam Canals of Venice, Playa Vista, northern Playa del Rey, and formerly extended northerly beyond Venice Boulevard to the historical Venice Canals that are now covered in asphalt with 6 streets.

Bair Island

Bair Island is a marsh area in Redwood City, California, covering 3,000 acres (1,200 ha), and includes three islands: Inner, Middle and Outer islands. Bair Island is part of the larger Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is surrounded by the Steinberger slough to the northwest and Redwood Creek to the southeast.

Upper Newport Bay Coastal wetland in Newport Beach, Southern California

The Upper Newport Bay is a large coastal wetland in Newport Beach, Southern California and a major stopover for birds on the Pacific Flyway. Dozens of species, including endangered ones, can be observed here. Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve represent approximately 1,000 acres (4 km2) of open space. The Upper Newport Bay was purchased by the state in 1975 for its Fish and Wildlife Department's Ecological Reserve System. In 1985 the upper west bluffs and lands surrounding the bay became part of an Orange County regional park, which offers outdoor activities such as bird-watching, jogging, bicycling, hiking, and kayaking. The Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, located at 2301 University Drive, is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. An organization known as the Newport Bay Conservancy (NBC) provides volunteers to answer visitors' questions and guide them through the various activities.

Santa Rosa Plateau

The Santa Rosa Plateau is an upland plateau and southeastern extension of the Santa Ana Mountains in Riverside County, southern California. It is bounded by the rapidly urbanizing Inland Empire cities of Murrieta and Temecula to the northeast and southeast, respectively.

Protected areas of California

According to the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), in the state of California, United States, there are over 14,000 inventoried protected areas administered by public agencies and non-profits. In addition, there are private conservation areas and other easements. They include almost one-third of California's scenic coastline, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. The California State Parks system alone has 270 units and covers 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2), with over 280 miles (450 km) of coastline, 625 miles (1,006 km) of lake and river frontage, nearly 18,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.

Rancho Las Bolsas

Rancho Las Bolsas was a 33,460-acre (135.4 km2) 1834 Mexican land grant resulting from the partition of Rancho Los Nietos, located from the coast on inland within present day northwestern Orange County, California. The Spanish name "las bolsas" means "the pockets", and refers to pockets of land amongst the marsh wetlands of the Santa Ana River estuary. The rancho lands, adjacent to the southeast of Rancho La Bolsa Chica, include the present day cities of Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley and Westminster.

Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) is a research center under the Office of Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) whose mission is to preserve regional biodiversity and restore ecosystems on campus lands. CCBER has three main functions: curation and preservation of natural history collections, native coastal ecosystem and habitat restoration on campus lands, and education and outreach for both UCSB students and local community schools.

San Elijo Lagoon

San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands in San Diego County, California, United States.

Rancho La Bolsa Chica

Rancho La Bolsa Chica was an 8,107-acre (32.81 km2) Mexican land grant in present day coastal northwestern Orange County, California given in 1841 by Governor Juan Alvarado to Joaquín Ruiz. The name means "little pocket", and refers to pockets of land amongst the marsh wetlands of the Santa Ana River estuary. The rancho lands include the present day city of Huntington Beach, the community of Sunset Beach, and the significant Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Los Cerritos Wetlands

Los Cerritos Wetlands is located in both Los Angeles County and Orange County in the cities of Long Beach, California, and Seal Beach, California. The San Gabriel River, historically and currently flows through the Los Cerritos Wetlands Complex.

Huntington Harbour is a community of about 3,500 people located in the northwestern section of Huntington Beach in Orange County, California. Huntington Harbour is a residential development of 680 acres (280 ha) which includes five man-made islands with waterways varying from 15 to 20 feet in depth used for boating. The five man-made islands in Huntington Harbour include: Admiralty, Davenport, Gilbert, Humboldt, and Trinidad.

Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) is a non-profit organization that is based on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwestern Los Angeles County, California.

Lifelong Huntington Beach resident, veteran, devoted community servant and major contributing factor in the discovery of Orange County's archeological find ORA-83.

Bolsa Chica Basin State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) and Bolsa Bay State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) are two adjoining marine protected areas located in Orange County on the southern coast of California. The SMCAs cover 0.66 and 0.07 square miles, respectively. The SMCAs protect marine life by limiting the removal of marine wildlife from within their borders.

Anaheim Bay

Anaheim Bay is an extensive harbor and wetland complex in Orange County, California in the United States. The bay is located on the Pacific Ocean coast of northwestern Orange County next to Seal Beach and is split into several distinct but interconnected parts. The term "Anaheim Bay" generally refers to the deep-water Navy harbor at the bay entrance. Further southeast are the Huntington Harbor, which serves small private vessels, and the Bolsa Bay, a salt-water estuary. Bordering the bay are hundreds of acres of salt marshes, some of the largest remaining such habitats in Southern California.

North Campus Open Space

North Campus Open Space (NCOS) is a 136-acre wetland and upland restoration project located on a former golf course in Goleta, California. NCOS is managed by the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER), a research center under the Office of Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The primary objectives of this project are: the restoration of the historic upper half of Devereux Slough and adjacent upland and wetland habitats that support important local native plant and animal species, reducing flood risk, providing a buffer against predicted sea level rise, and contributing to carbon sequestration while also supporting public access and outreach, and facilitating research and educational opportunities for all members of the community.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "History of Bolsa Chica Wetlands". Amigos de Bolsa Chica website. Archived from the original on 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  2. "Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve". California Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
  3. Aldridge, James A. (1998). Saving the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. Amigos de Bolsa Chica. p. 7. This book was published as part of the California State University, Fullerton Oral History Program.
  4. Fletcher, Jaimee Lynn (January 17, 2013). "Once a hunting hotspot". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 2.
  5. Mellen, Greg (January 21, 2016). "Amigos Have Com of Age". Huntington Beach Wave. The Orange County Register. p. 4.
  6. 1 2 Overley, Jeff (August 25, 2011). "Wetlands experience a resurgence". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 13.
  7. Carlberg, David. "Bolsa Chica: Its History from Prehistoric Times to the Present". Amigos de Bolsa Chica, 2009
  8. Carlberg, David. "Bolsa Chica: its history from prehistoric times to the present" Amigos de Bolsa Chica, 2009.
  9. "Ridge/Goodell Preservation Agreement".
  10. "Neighborhood Flood Control Projects". County of Orange Resources & Development Management Department website. Retrieved 2008-02-19.[ permanent dead link ]
  11. 1 2 3 Fletcher, Jaimee Lynn (March 7, 2013). "Reviving Bolsa Chica". Huntington Beach Wave. pp. 1, 4.
  12. 1 2 Ambrose, Anne (October 27, 2008). "Cal State Long Beach Marine Researchers Studying Changes in Fish Life Resulting from New Bolsa Chica Wetlands Inlet". This Week @ The Beach. California State University, Long Beach. Archived from the original on July 12, 2010. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  13. 1 2 Mellen, Greg (August 18, 2016). "Bolsa Chica dredging funding drying up". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 2.
  14. "Birds of Bolsa Chica Wetlands".[ permanent dead link ]
  15. "Bolsa Chica Campaign: A Success Story". Sierra Club Angeles Chapter website. Archived from the original on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  16. Carpio, Anthony Clark (May 13, 2014). "Endangered bird species mating in Bolsa Chica". Huntington Beach Independent. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  17. "Bolsa Chica Wetlands Through the Changing Seasons". Birds & Science. Amigos de Bolsa Chica. Retrieved 2018-08-01.