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Love Your Wetlands Day Teams Up With California Volunteers For Community Climate Action Day

Mission Bay Park, San Diego Audubon and community groups collaborated on day of activities promoting conservation, climate education and wildlife habitat cleanup.

Group photo at the edge of the wetlands featuring a few dozen people standing and kneeling. Some hold official framed proclamations.
Community volunteers, state and local representatives gathered for UC San Diego's Love Your Wetlands Day held in conjunction with Community Climate Action Day - San Diego. From left front row: (kneeling) San Diego City Council member Joe LaCava, State Senator Catherine Blakespear, California Volunteers Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, Congressman Scott Peters, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, (standing) State Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, Mayor Todd Gloria and Stan Rodriguez, President of Kumeyaay College and a member of the Kumeyaay Nation. Photo by Craig Chaddock for UC San Diego Natural Reserve System.

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More than 500 community volunteers joined state representatives, local conservation advocates and representatives of the Kumeyaay nation at UC San Diego's annual Love Your Wetlands Day held at the protected Kendall-Frost Marsh in Mission Bay. This year, the California Volunteers, Office of the Governor, joined the celebration in support of Community Climate Action Day - San Diego. Thanks to their partnership and that of the San Diego Audubon, this year's 18th annual event was the largest Love Your Wetlands Day on record. 

A small cream and brown bird in flight with a bug in its mouth.
A Say's Phoebe from the marsh flies away with lunch. Photo by Craig Chaddock.

Participants joined hands-on activities, explored the marsh, assisted in cleanup efforts and learned about research taking place to quantify and qualify just how the rare urban wetlands habitat is a benefit to the region's air, ocean and wildlife. Volunteers with San Diego Audubon, an active partner in the day's events, helped provide tours and educate visitors about birds like the endangered Ridgway’s rails that call the marsh home. 

The marsh is a hidden refuge for juvenille fish, endangered bird species and a host of unique native plants that would not exisit if it were not for coastal wetlands. The February event is the only time each year that the public is invited to visit the habitat because casual attendance would disrupt the delicate ecosystem. There's only one rule for touring the marsh on Love Your Wetlands Day: Anyone who goes in has to pick up trash. This year volunteers removed nearly 300 pounds of it, over 60 percent of that was plastic.

Man holds brown and cream snake coiled in his hand.
Visitors are introduced to Elvis the kingsnake by a Living Coast Discovery Center handler to explain how the reptile benefits the ecosystem. Photo by Craig Chaddock.

“As stewards of Kendall-Frost Marsh, UC San Diego values this dynamic marsh region and the opportunities it offers to learn more about pressing environmental issues like carbon sequestration, wildlife cultivation and climate change in urban centers,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are proud to welcome visitors to Love Your Wetlands Day, and appreciate the opportunity to connect with our regional and state partners, demonstrate the importance of wetlands and celebrate this important regional resource.”

Line of community volunteers carrying buckets near the marsh waters.
Volunteers set off in the marsh wearing rubber boots to collect trash. Photo by Victor Santos.
UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla stands next to Mayor Todd Gloria.
Chancellor Khosla and Mayor Todd Gloria. Photo by Craig Chaddock.

“Every level of government must take action on the climate crisis – and we at the City of San Diego are stepping up to do so,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “I’m grateful to all the volunteers who gathered to do their part during the city-wide day of climate action. When big cities like San Diego lead, others will follow. And where California leads, the world follows.” 

He also mentioned the city's newly launched paid internship program. Employ & Empower, an initiative to support 1,000 paid interns across a variety of industries and departments within the City, will include teams focused on implementing and executing his Climate Action Plan. Funding provided by the State of California's Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday and California Volunteers will allow these students to gain valuable, real world experience and develop valuable career skills. He encouraged interested students to learn more and apply at the Employ & Empower website.

Guide addresses group of volunteers while standing in the marsh.
A group of volunteers listen to instructions on replanting native species before going to work in the marsh. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
Josh Fryday stands at podium in a baseball cap with a line of state representatives behind him.
State of California's Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday delivers his opening remarks. Photo by Victor Santos.

Richard Norris, professor of paleobiology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and faculty director of the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System, along with Sean Reese, a graduate student in Global Policy and Strategy and Beverly Scharnhorst, a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, jointly authored an opinion piece about the economic impact of the reserves in this week's San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego’s economy will benefit from restoring and growing Mission Bay’s wetlands.

"Our project estimates what it would be worth to implement the ReWild Mission Bay Coalition’s “wildest” plan, which would create 227 acres of new wetland directly adjacent to Kendall-Frost Marsh (currently 40 acres in size) at the northern shore of Mission Bay," the trio write in the article.

"Love Your Wetlands Day could never happen without the army of volunteers that help run this event. We do love and work to protect our wetlands each and every day, but we also love our volunteers!"
Heather Henter, executive director of the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System
Group of community volunteers paddle in traditional handcrafted Kumeyaay tule boats.
Community volunteers paddle in traditional Kumeyaay tule boats, or Ha Kwaiyo. Photo by Craig Chaddock.

They go on to explain how the wetlands could contribute at least $1 million in value to the region every year based on the selected wetland amenities they considered in their study, including wildlife conservation and property protection.

Kendall-Frost Marsh is part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System, a library of ecosystems throughout California representing most of the state's major habitats. The UC San Diego Natural Reserve System includes Kendall-Frost Marsh and three other protected natural habitats that offer researchers and educators the opportunity to use outdoor laboratories for scientific discovery and classrooms. The Natural Reserves are a vital resource for measuring the effects of climate change and developing strategies to reverse it. It also allows the community to learn about the utility of undeveloped green spaces not intended for recreation.

The view spans lush green marsh showing slivers of waterways and the city beyond.
A bird's eye view of volunteers in the marsh. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
A man in a straw sunhat stands among the brush and greenery with an easel, canvas and paints.
Among the activities for the day, some brought easels, canvas and paiting materials to capture the beauty of the landscape. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
A group of volunteers and members of the Kumeyaay Nation stand behind a tule boat.
Stan Rodriguez of the Santa Ysabel Band of the Kumeyaay Nation (center) shows volunteers how to craft a traditional tule boat. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
A woman in a sun hat paints a watercolor landscaper of the marsh
Artist used watercolors, pastels and acrylics to record skyline of the marsh. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
Two people use paddles to maneuver tule boats.
Community visitors for the day manuever the waters of the marsh in handmade boats made from tule, a type of sedge. Photo by Craig Chaddock.
A small bird looks toward the marsh.
A small resident Yellow-rumped Warbler observes the day's activities. Photo by Craig Chaddock.

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