The Ballona Wetlands Deserve An Immediate Intervention

Critical Marine Habitat Is Being Lost To Environmental Destruction And Violence

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Preserve, bordered by Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, and Marina del Rey, is part of what was once a vast 2,000 acre landscape of dunes and coastal wetlands.  Over the last century, much of the area and its wildlife was lost to development.  For decades, environmentalists have fought to protect and restore the area.  Today, the remaining 600 acres is a protected biodiverse ecological reserve, which serves as critical habitat to hundreds of species, including the endangered Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, Least Bell’s Vireo, and the El Segundo Blue Butterfly.

Despite all the hard work and activism to protect this special coastal area, we are witnessing Ballona’s destruction on a daily basis.  Although No Stopping and No Dumping signs line Jefferson Boulevard, the City has permitted an extensive RV encampment – without any services, sanitation, or security – to flourish over the last year and a half.  Local residents have long warned of the potential fire danger and adverse environmental impacts from the trash and illegal sewage dumping, but the City has failed to take any meaningful action to address this growing disaster.

On March 23, 2021, a fire started in the encampment area burned five acres.  The Fire Department was unable to access the hydrant because it was blocked by an inoperable RV, which impeded and delayed the public safety response.

This past Sunday, I walked the Ballona Wetland Ecological Preserve with local wildlife enthusiasts and concerned citizens.  Dozens of species of birds were on display, and it was encouraging to see some greenery returning around the burn area.  But, peppered throughout the preserve were piles of garbage, campsite remnants, and fences and gates broken by people entering protected areas.  The RV encampment along Jefferson was shocking: glass pipes, human feces, needles, and chopped bikes littered the walkway.  The storm drains were literally full of plastic, trash, and other debris.  Despite posted No Trespassing signs, trampled reeds lead to tents among the willow trees, and people are using the marsh as a public restroom – the stench of urine and human waste (given away by the wads of used toilet paper) was overpowering.

Then on Wednesday morning, a mass shooting occurred in the RV encampment, leaving four men in the hospital.  The suspect remains at large as the investigation continues.  The ongoing crime and violence in and around these unregulated encampments simply cannot be tolerated.

If we, as a community, want to live up to our values on the environment, protect public safety, and ensure that people have access to the help and services they desperately need, then we need to change our leadership.  I will fight to ensure our critical natural resources are protected, that local law enforcement has the resources it needs to combat crime, and for safe and sensible solutions to addressing homelessness.

Keep doing your best, and I will do the same.

Traci Park

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