REDONDO BEACH, CA – Marine biologist Ann Dalkey was walking along the Esplanade at Redondo Beach in 2008 when she saw an invasive plant species growing there and thought, “Well, what if we put some native plants?
Since then, a multi-year effort has been made to remove the invasive ice plant and other weeds and bring the Esplanade back to life. Other organizations, such as the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and the South Bay Parkland Conservancy, brought in more people to help plant, water and weed along the coast.
Saturday marked the first time that all the organizations worked together, but they have each worked separately on the restoration of the Esplanade cliffs over the years. Jim Montgomery, SBPC board member and project manager, said it was great to be good parents to the rest of the planet and he was thrilled to be part of a great community. budding.
“What excites me so much right now is that it feels like that foundation has been laid,” Montgomery said. “In my vision, the two miles of coastline will eventually be restored. That’s the vision, I just close my eyes and see, in the spring, a super bloom of native wildflowers.”
What the groups are currently focusing on is removing the ice plant, which is native to South Africa according to Dalkey and forms a large, fast-growing cover of greenery that chokes out native plants and alters the composition of the floor.
With the help of the US Fish and Wildlife Service funding the restoration with a $79,000 grant, the goal is to expand the Bluff Restoration Project and create habitat for the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly. By planting native plants such as cliff buckwheat and other dune plants, other pollinators, lizards and birds will thrive in the area, according to Coastal Fish and Wildlife Program Coordinator Carolyn Lieberman.
“If things don’t go well for listed species, they’re potentially not going to go very well for us or for other species,” Lieberman said. “You’re recreating an ecosystem, so it’s better for all the other animals and plants and ultimately it’s better for us too. What’s good for the butterflies is good for us.”
LACC had been working on the project for nearly four and a half years, according to the program’s senior director, Robert Skillman, but lacked the money to maintain the site. Skillman said it was a perfect partnership when they teamed up with SBPC in 2020 to continue the work.
Corps employees are made up of at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 25 who may be on parole, just released from prison, or have not graduated from high school. They come out two to four times a week during the week to maintain the grounds and connect inner-city youth with meaningful restoration work.
Skillman said that over the past four years, probably 60 corps members have touched the project and seen hundreds of blue butterflies at the site during flight season.
“We bring inner-city youth to a project site like this and they learn about restoration, and then they’re also exposed to land that’s also theirs, this beach,” Skillman said. “Some of our corps members have never seen the beach before, even though they are 15-20 miles inland, they just have never had access to the beach.”
Over the next five years, the organizations will continue their work of removing ice-making and other invasive alien species and replacing them with dune and cliff habitats that will eventually cover 6.9 acres.
So far, the project is considered a major success. Blue butterflies from El Segundo returned to the esplanade and were documented along the coast to Avenue I in Redondo Beach.
Those interested in volunteering and being part of the restoration efforts can register on the SBPC website here.