This is Washington, D.C. intern Nahal Jalali reporting from California.
The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, known to Huntington Beach locals as the wetlands, is home to hundreds of native and exotic creatures. The reserve is an oasis for common and endangered species whose habitats have been, or are being, destroyed in efforts to rapidly develop the nearby land for housing construction.
The wetlands aren't hidden -- the reserve is located alongside a sizable stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway -- but very few residents take advantage of them. In fact the reserve is so under-the-radar that there have been several efforts over the past few years to clear the land for housing. Although these efforts have been met with stiff resistance by environmentally conscious individuals throughout California, it seems startling that anyone would even make this proposal. Aside from the oceanic wonders of Southern California, the wetlands are one of the last true ecological safe zones for many endangered species. The thought of destroying it is absolutely mortifying.
I first became acquainted with the Bolsa Chica Wetlands through my school’s AP Environmental Class. Each year, the class hosts a field trip to study the reserve and test water samples from the various aquatic zones.
When I visited, the diversity of the flora and fauna that call the wetlands home was the first thing that struck me. It is not often in Southern California that one has the opportunity to witness hundreds of various bird species and plant life in such close proximity to a major highway system. The wetlands offer a unique blend of natural wildlife and human accessibility that makes it an incredibly special location for all citizens.
Aside from the practical role the reserve plays as home to many incredible creatures, it is a pure, aesthetic pleasure. The reserve has such an element of classical, untouched beauty that it has become an inspirational place. I find myself traveling there to enjoy the tranquil sense of peace and a “oneness” with nature that is becoming so difficult to find -- let alone truly enjoy -- in this modern era.
While the reserve may not be enormous like Yellowstone or Yosemite, but it has a special magnificence of its own. The reserve has been the cause of individual inspiration. It has brought together community members and pushed them to reflect on the importance of the protecting the Earth. It is home to so many rare and beautifully unique creatures. And most of all, it is an accessible slice of natural wonder that has prevailed in the face of corporate greed and commercial destruction.
Photo credits, from top: Pettybo/Flickr, Hoben022002/Flickr, QualityResults/Flickr