[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 3] Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project

Only 10% of California’s wetlands still exist today and Ballona is the last remaining coastal salt marsh in Los Angeles County. As we sat on its serene bank listening to the call of endangered terns and the buzzing of native bees, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by its destruction and uplifted by the hands of more than 75,000 volunteers working diligently for more than 35 years to protect and restore its precious ecosystem.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Finding solitude at the Ballona Wetlands

The Friends of Ballona Wetlands has an award-winning volunteer restoration program geared towards hands-on restoration that is perfectly suited for families who are looking to get outdoors and get dirty! Similar to our TreePeople experience, we headed out early on a Saturday morning, lunches packed, sun block applied, ready to roll up our sleeves and dig into some dirt!

Ballona boasts an almost 600 acre protected ecological reserve nestled smack dab in the middle of urban sprawl and is home to about 300 bird species and hundreds of species of plants. Unfortunately, large swathes of its delicate landscape have been overrun by invasive, non-native plants such as the South American Pampa Grass and Australian Ice Plant. 

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Removing Australian Ice Plants

A primary focus of the restoration project is removal of these non-native plants and in the last 8 years over eight thousand four hundred cubic yards of invasive plants, trash and debris have been successfully cleared by the caring hands of the LA community. Meanwhile, volunteers work diligently to plant native vegetation back into the wetlands’ rare and expansive network of dunes, highlands and estuaries.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Hiking and Bird-Watching on the Ballona Creek Trail
This program also offers its volunteers a rich and vibrant educational experience complete with docents and printed material to help us to understand the importance of supporting community environmental stewardship within these unique wetlands. 

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Using provided educational materials as a guide

V thoroughly enjoyed referring to the diagram of commonly-spotted ducks and birds who nest in the marsh. As we hiked along the ridge we were able to revel in the elegant flight of a red-tailed hawk and discover what distinguishes the Great Blue Heron from a Snowy Egret. What a treat!

The importance of restoring and maintaining Ballona is far-reaching and guaranteed to give back to future generations ten-fold. Preserving our wetlands is vital for Earth and our well-being on so many different levels. They provide a place for migrating birds to rest and refuel as they make their long journey across thousands of miles, from the most southerly point of South America to the northernmost tundra of Alaska. Tantamount to humans, though is the undeniable significance of the wetlands’ ability to filter toxins and heavy metals through its vegetation, in turn sending cleaner water back into Los Angeles’ aquifers and rivers.

Family Volunteering at Ballona Wetlands
Serenity at the Ballona Wetlands

For our family, learning the seriousness of our effects on the environment and taking responsibility for the destruction, caused by us, to our most fragile ecosystems by taking part in amazing programs like these can only help lead us on our quest to understanding the true importance of environmental stewardship. It allows us to give thanks and reminds us what is most valuable in our lives; each other and the natural world that envelops and supports us.

11 thoughts on “[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 3] Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project

  1. So amazing that you are volunteering with V! I'm curious to learn how you manage working while keeping her engaged in the project…I would love to do something like this with Bergen, but I worry we would be more disruptive than helpful.


  2. Wonderful to see this example of actively working to protect this precious place, and sharing it with your child. Your reverence for the wetland and creatures shines through. Kudos!


  3. Lovely! The pictures are lovely!

    It's so wonderful that you are exposing your child to this early. Her life and her future will be so enriched.

    It really is incredible what you are doing, Jen. Fantastic!


  4. Thanks Kate! Let me be clear: there were huge swathes of time spent chasing crows, petting lizards and looking for roley poleys amongst actual ice-plant pulling! haha I think if you go in knowing that and just go with the flow, everyone will be understanding and actually in our case, overly welcoming and impressed.


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