Now folks can wander the wetlands every second and fourth Saturday monthly thanks to a UC San Diego-San Diego Audubon Society partnership opening up Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve for public education.
Starting Saturday, July 24, the field office in the coastal marsh at 2055 Pacific Beach Drive will be open every other Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. with volunteers discussing the marsh, its ecosystem, wildlife, and future.
“We'll have docents there and folks will be able to come in, find some solace, ask questions, and look through scopes and binoculars,” said Andrew Meyer, director of conservation for San Diego Audubon, of the new marsh education program. “This is a fantastic opportunity to share this community resource, in this one-of-a-kind habitat in the northeast corner of Mission Bay, for nature-lovers, bird enthusiasts, and anyone interested in learning more about this habitat existing in the heart of our City.”
The Mission Bay Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve is part of the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System, a network of 41 undeveloped and protected natural lands throughout California. Each reserve is a vital resource for the University of California to fulfill its mission to educate, research, and serve the public.
Heather Henter, executive director for the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System, addressed the marsh, its habitat, and the new program designed to educate the public about its significance and endangered future, caused by global warming and gradual sea-level rise.
“Before World War II there were 4,000 acres of wetlands in Mission Bay then the City decided to create an aquatic park, so they dredged much of the water to make it deep enough for recreational boats, and they used the dredging spoils to create a lot of land like Fiesta Island, and De Anza Point,” noted Henter of the marsh’s history. “Now that 4,000 acres have been reduced to 40 acres. That’s 1% left of the wetlands that were here less than a century ago.”
Pointing out 16 of the remaining 40 wetland acres are managed in tandem by the UC system with 24 of those acres part of Mission Bay Park, Henter noted the City is in the middle of a planning process to expand Kendall-Frost, which could displace Campland on the Bay (on the city-leased property next door), and reconnect the remaining marsh with Rose Canyon Creek, to help restore, and purify its shrunken habitat.
Henter talked about the uniqueness – and fragility – of Kendall-Frost’s ecosystem.
“Wetlands are really weird, extraordinary habitats,” she said, defining such ecosystems as “any piece of land covered with water part of the time, the day, the year. Kendall-Frost is a coastal wetland, which means it’s on the ocean and is covered with saltwater part of the time. So just imagine being a plant or animal that lives half covered with water, and the other half covered with air. And saltwater can be quite toxic to organisms.”
“Those organisms that live here are really specialized to this unusual and harsh habitat,” continued Henter. “Most of the organisms that live here can live nowhere else, only in a salt marsh, like the Ridgeway’s rail, a small wading bird that nests part of the year in Kendall-Frost utilizing ‘floating nests’ (that researchers make for them). They are on the federal list of endangered species due to predation from raccoons, rats, and feral cats, and from habitat loss. A total of 88% of California’s wetlands have disappeared.”
Why should we care about Kendall-Frost’s wetlands and their preservation/restoration?
“There are lots of reasons,” answered Henter. “it might be that you think this is just a beautiful place, or that the unusual organisms that can only live here deserve a place to live. But wetlands also provide a lot of ecosystem services for humans. That’s where nature provides something specific for humans. Wetlands have real economic value for San Diego.”
“One example of the superpowers of wetlands is carbon sequestration,” continued Henter. “Wetlands both capture and store, carbon. That helps save our shorelines. Kendall-Frost Marsh is squishy and soft, acting like a big sponge, storing carbon and helping to filter out pollution. It is also a habitat for endangered species and a nursery for a lot of fish species.”
Henter added there are long-term plans to fundraise to replace the marsh’s half-century old field trailer with a new structure to update and upgrade its amenities. Future plans are to add a large multipurpose room to facilitate its educational and research use by universities and local schools, like Mission Bay High School, as well as the general public.
WANDER THE WETLANDS
Starting Saturday, July 24, the field office in the coastal marsh at 2055 Pacific Beach Drive will be open every other Saturday from 9-11 a.m. with volunteers discussing the marsh, its ecosystem, wildlife and future.