Friends of Ballona Wetlands, which has for 36 years advocated for the protection and restoration of the Ballona Wetlands, has learned that the Annenberg Foundation has suspended its activities aimed at establishing an interpretative center on the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.
When the Annenberg Foundation and the State announced in early 2013 that they were undertaking work together pursuant to a public-private memorandum of understanding, the Friends urged the parties to pursue plans consistent with the Friends’ goals of having wetlands restoration, public education and well-regulated public access to the Ballona Wetlands.
Regarding specifics of the Annenberg Foundation’s proposal for an interpretive center, the Friends have maintained a “wait and see” attitude while awaiting the alternatives in a draft environmental impact report for the overall wetland restoration plans. At least one of the restoration alternatives analyzed by the State would include the proposed Annenberg Foundation facility. We have been looking forward to addressing this and other alternatives disclosed in the upcoming public comment process.
Now that collaboration between the State and the Annenberg Foundation has been suspended, the Friends will continue to advocate for comprehensive restoration of the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, where less than 50 acres of original wetlands remain today. The Friends have always advocated for well-regulated public access to the Reserve, including a visitors’ center within the Reserve area or at the nearby Ballona Discovery Park.
The Friends will continue to urge that well-managed public access and an interpretive facility, including parking for visitors, should be included in any proposed plan for the Reserve restoration project – as long as such facilities do not have a significant adverse impact on the restored habitats.
The specific site that was proposed for the Annenberg Foundation facility, Area C South within the Reserve, could be a relatively good location for visitor parking, reception and interpretive facilities, given its low restoration potential and existing recreational use. The footprint of the proposed Annenberg center can still be analyzed in the EIR even if specifics of design are not known. Therefore, the withdrawal of the Annenberg project should not be used as an excuse to delay production of the EIR for public review.
The Friends urge the State to work as quickly as possible to complete its alternatives analysis, and come forward with a thorough and comprehensive draft environmental impact report for the Reserve.
The State purchased the Reserve in 2003 – eleven years ago; and no one could have imagined then that the State would take this long to analyze alternatives and decide upon a plan to restore the Reserve. The State’s planning process has already taken far too long. The Reserve needs a robust restoration plan; and the process of approving one must proceed and conclude.