Environmental and community groups, working together as “Friends of Oxford Lagoon,” called today for a halt to county plans to cut down 650 trees surrounding a marshy flood basin next to the Marina City Club towers.
The group urged residents to call and email Los Angeles County Supervisors to protest the plan, warning that without any intervention, chainsaws may go to work as early as Thursday.
The sometimes smelly basin is a neglected-looking 10 acres that is fenced off between Washington Boulevard and Admiralty Way. Environmentalists said it has become a sanctuary and nesting area for water birds like black- crowned night herons and snowy and great egrets.
“It’s time that we start valuing birds and trees that are part of our community,” said Kathryn Campbell, a resident and president of the Beach Cities Democratic Club.
The Sierra Club’s Airport-Marina Group, Grassroots Coalition, Ballona Institute and Ballona Ecosystem Education Project have joined with residents in protest of what they see as a major disruption.
The county plans to dredge the lagoon — it acts somewhat like a swimming pool gutter for Marina del Rey — and improve flood and runoff control as part of a $12 million project.
“Most of the trees there are non-native and diseased,” said Terri Grant, a Department of Public Works engineer familiar with the project.
Workers will plant 730 native, drought-tolerant plants, including some mature trees, to replace the trees removed. The final phase of the project is to create a lighted perimeter trail and observation areas for the site, which nearly connects with Yvonne B. Burke Park.
A Department of Public Works spokesman said the work was planned for December to avoid nesting season.
“Many of the trees going in will be mature trees as well, not just shrubs and saplings,” Kerjon Lee told the Daily Breeze. “We believe the birds will return and there will be a significant habitat established by the following year when they’re ready to nest.”
But some residents worry that wildlife will abandon the area for years.
“Even though the county claims it will be replacing the trees months from now with immature trees, the chainsawing and bulldozing will cause disruption to the wildlife living in the lagoon,” said Patricia McPherson, president of the Grassroots Coalition.
McPherson and others said they don’t want to kill the county’s plans altogether, but urged a “more reasonable, gentler approach.”
Activists said the county’s plans to start sawing down trees this week have been delayed to rainstorms, but that once the rain stops, county workers will get to work around the lagoon.
“The nesting season begins January 1,” Grant said. If work cannot be completed by then, a biologist will be brought on site, she said. No trees with an active nest will be removed.
The project has been approved by the Coastal Commmission, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission — which supplied a $2 million grant for the work — and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
More details can be found at www.dpw.lacounty.gov/go/oxford.