Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Momentum and Passion

Passion is what drives us and Momentum is what keeps us driving. Any grass roots effort needs a strong and consistent dose of both of these ingredients. When one is lost, the other usually suffers as a result. And there are so many hurdles that can derail your Passion and Momentum.

After being affiliated and/or involved with numerous non-profit environmental groups I have seen many organizations that could not piece together the puzzle to truly achieve their missions in a cooperative and effective manner. Often ONE individual bears the burden, or personality flaws & irreconcilable differences in visions form rifts between group members. Power struggles are far too common as well...and to be honest...all of this is understandable because this stuff is HARD!!

Its hard to be a part of something that is bigger than you. Something that doesn't necessarily need you in order to exist. Something that one day you will leave behind for others to lead. Something that doesn't pay your bills. Something that you care dearly about, but ultimately do not have control over. This is how large scale conservation efforts generally are for 'Friends' organizations.

I personally have parted ways with groups with amazing missions, that I just could no longer work with for one reason or another (Many of my colleagues can sympathize)...and then it becomes hard to find another group with an open door and a worthy mission to get involved with.

However, this was not the case for me in 2006 with Friends of Colorado Lagoon. Open door policy is an was more like an open flood gate. Without hesitation they invited me - an unproven,naive, but excited 25 year old salt marsh ecologist - to be a part of their family. Nobody felt threatened by my credentials or youthfulness...they were all just sooo jazzed to have someone NEW interested in their project. This invitation for involvement changed the trajectory of my life dramatically and I think it also led to a Renaissance for FOCL because once I realized the gate was open, I flooded their board and volunteer roster with my friends and colleagues and students. This change in personnel was welcomed and that welcoming attitude has led to the success FOCL is experiencing today.

Colorado Lagoon is realizing its potential to be restored into a full functioning, multiple-use facility for wildlife and recreation...all because of a well organized community group that has tenacity, a willingness to learn, and a bunch of supporters who make it their goal to be well educated about the ins-and-outs of a complicated Conservation effort.

Last night at City Council I saw the Passion FOCL still has and I also saw the Momentum build like a tidal wave when the votes for an open channel were unanimously supportive. What comes next in order to implement this project is yet to be seen, but I know that FOCL will be involved every step of the way...even if I one day get distracted by life and lose involvement...FOCL will still be there as Champions of Colorado Lagoon.

When is the flock capable without the Shepard?
When there is NO Shepard and the Flock is full of leaders that know where to climb in order to find greener pastures.

Congratulations to Friends of Colorado Lagoon for being a Flock Of Passionate Leaders with the Momentum to create a Culture of Conservation!

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 11th Public Meeting on the Phase 2 (Open Channel)

We need butts in the seats on August 11th at 7pm at the Bruin's Den at Little Rec to support the Colorado Lagoon's Phase 2 Restoration Design for a Tidal Creek to fully restore the connection to Alamitos Bay. The Design Alternative that creates an awesome Tidal Creek is Alternative 4A. We want 4A!Go to our website ( and check our press release and our restoration page ( for more details. And you can always email me ( for more info. Thanks everyone, hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Post Acoustic Tidal Artwalk

Greetings Everyone!

Wow, Acoustic Tidal Artwalk was a wonderful event and great success! Many thanks to all our volunteers who made it possible. We had a strong group of dedicated folks who put in a lot of creative energy, time and love into making ATA 2010 a special weekend at the Colorado Lagoon.

Here's some numbers for 2010:

Artist- 7

Bands- 10

Volunteers- 17

2 Nights- 6-10pm

Attendance- 500+-

Sponsoring Partners- 7

Volunteered Hours- 300+

Gallons of Hot Chocolate/Coffee/Tea served- 25

Check out the Photos Below. Watch the progression of the Set up, the event, beautiful skies, art, bands and lots of folks enjoying the Lagoon!

Set up.....

Lots of signs!

Lots of hole digging...

We can do it!!!

The Event...

The Tea Room- Sponsored by Viento Y Agua. Haley's beautiful idea under the tree!

The sky put on quite the show!

Margie Darrow spent Friday night painting for us next to the stage. Thanks Margie


A little Lagoon History

The evening glow

Taylor Parker having fun as always

Studio 1021- a local art studio who specialize in kid & adult art lessons.

The Tails!

Master Emcee- Eric Zahn

It was an evening for the family

Bike Valet

The tide came up and created the Tidal Artwalk- People kicked off their shoes and waded through the tide

Timothy Dunham - Nature in Windows

Danny Zapalac

Shane Bowman

Whitney Graves

Dave Pirazzi

If you are interested in getting involved next year get in contact with our Education deptartment at ColoradoLagoon.Org or go to

Thanks for another great year!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Acoustic Tidal Artwalk 2010!!!


Friends of Colorado Lagoon in cooperation with Some Things Creative and Tidal Influence are proud to present:

Grab the kids, tell your neighbors and friends and come on down to South Beach of the Colorado Lagoon for the Coolest event of the summer. Be sure to bring a blanket, an appetite and be ready for some Fun!

July 9th & 10th, 6-10pm. Enter event from Colorado & Nieto. Bike Valet available

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weekly Bird Counts

Incredibly there is still some wildlife down at the lagoon right now despite the large-scale construction efforts that are almost completely encircling this little wetlands right now. One of our dedicated volunteers and spring 2010 innovatorship award winners Sarah Thomas has been leading the way in developing a method for scientifically monitoring the bird species at the Lagoon. We have been recording the species abundance, species behaviors, and species habitat use for the past 3 Monday mornings and plan to continue this effort as we develop a protocal for citizen-based bird monitoring at Colorado Lagoon. Here are the abundance numbers for those counts:

May 24th
Species Name Quantity
1 Ring-billed Gull 1
2 Killdeer 1
3 Western Blue Bird 2
4 Snowy Egret 2
5 Forster's Turn 1
6 American Crow 2
7 Lesser Scaup 1
8 Cassin's Kingbird 1
9 Black Phoebe 2
10 Barn Swallow 2
11 Western Gull 1
12 House Finch 5
13 Mallard hybrid 4
14 Pied-billed Grebe 1
15 Spotted Sandpiper 1
16 American Coot 1

May 31st
Species Name Quantity
1 Forster's Turn 2
2 Snowy Egret 6
3 American Crow 8
4 Western Gull 2
5 Great Blue Heron 1
6 Western Blue Bird 1
7 Double Crested Cormorant 1
8 House Finch 2
9 Cliff Swallow 5
10 Pied-Billed Grebe 1
11 American Coot 1
12 Lesser Scaup 1
13 Cassin's Kingbird 1
14 Black Phoebe 3
15 Mourning Dove 2
16 Rock Pigeon 3
17 Mallard Hybrid 5

June 7th
Species Name Quantity
1 Double Crested Cormorant 2
2 Barn Swallow 1
3 Lesser Scaup 1
4 House Finch 8
5 Black Phoebe 1
6 Hummingbird spp. 3
7 American Coot 1
8 Snowy Egret 2
9 Hybrid Mallard 5
10 Great Blue Heron 1

Our full datasheets will soon be available on This bird monitoring program is all part of FOCL's strides to develop a comprehensive environmental monitoring program in partnership with CSU Long Beach. The results will help quantify the success of this multi-million dollar restoration project and allow for the project to be adaptively managed...making a better Lagoon for all creatures! If you want to get involved just contact us at

I also want to express how much we miss Rich Sonnenberg down at the Lagoon. His passion and dedication to birding is what inspires us to continue studying the avian populations at Colorado Lagoon, which he has done for many years. His guidance is missed and we look forward to him returning back to the Lagoon's perimeters very soon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Beach Bummer Again...

This week’s release of Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card shows modest improvements in Long Beach water quality, with one notable exception – Colorado Lagoon. The lagoon received straight Fs across the board. Rain or shine, winter or summer, year after year, the story is the same.

Heal the Bay gathers water quality data from 450 locations throughout California and, once again, Colorado Lagoon features prominently in their Beach Bummer top ten list, this year moving from 4th to 6th place. This dubious distinction reflects the lagoon’s dismal water quality during summer dry weather months, when swimming and other recreational uses are at their peak. This news comes on the eve of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, traditionally seen as the start of our summer recreation season. This weekend hundreds of Long Beach children will be swimming in Colorado Lagoon, a place their parents consider safe because of the gentle sloping beach and lack of waves.

Water quality in Colorado Lagoon remains a serious health and safety issue. Despite significant progress towards cleaning up the lagoon, bacteria and algae blooms continue because the lagoon has been isolated from the rest of the bay, and the Pacific Ocean, by an ill-conceived underground culvert. This culvert restricts the tidal circulation that the lagoon needs to be clean and healthy. Tidal circulation is the life blood of an estuary like Colorado Lagoon. Restricting this life blood, while pouring more and more urban runoff each year into the lagoon has gotten us where we are today. A good analogy is asking an athlete to run in a race with the blood circulation to their legs restricted. It is a recipe for disaster.

The storm drain work being done around the lagoon this year will reduce the amount of trash and urban runoff entering the lagoon during the dry season, and this is an important step forward. But unless full tidal circulation is restored, the lagoon will continue to have bacteria and algae problems each year. The existing underground culvert will be cleaned this summer, at a cost to the city of more than $400k (paid for through a grant secured by the city and FOCL). This will lead to marginally better tidal circulation, but in a relatively short period of time the culvert will again clog with silt and marine growth. This is not cost effective and certainly not a long term solution.

The only long term solution to this health issue, and the one recommended by the EIR, is restoring the original tidal creek that used to connect the lagoon to Alamitos bay. This original connection was filled in back in the 60s to make way for a “cross town freeway” which thankfully never happened. The city, Port of LB, along with resource agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and US Fish and Wildlife have been studying options to restore circulation to the lagoon, and the results will be released by the city in a few weeks. This data, along with public input, will help the city decide on the best way forward for restoring full circulation, also know as Phase II of the lagoon restoration.

We look forward to hearing your input on this important health and safety issue. If we make the right decisions now, Colorado Lagoon will no longer be known as one the 10 most polluted beaches in California, but instead as a safe and clean recreational asset that the citizens of Long Beach can be proud of.

Dave Pirazzi, Friends of Colorado Lagoon

PS. Thanks to Lenny Arkinstall for the use of his photos, and more importantly for his and LCWS work to remove the rafts of algae. Most of the algae seen in these photos has been removed as I post this.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Champions and Cub Scouts

Today was an incredible day at the Colorado Lagoon and I would like to point out the inspiring people that helped make it so. With all of the wonderful improvements to the storm-water infrastructure occurring right now it has been difficult to host FOCL’s education activities. While we have limited our education program a bit, it is quite another task to keep our regular volunteers away from the current community-based restoration of planting plants and non-native removal. Every volunteer is a great volunteer and at each event we host it is guaranteed at least one of our veteran restoration volunteers, FOCL’s Champions, will be pitching mulch and creating habitat along the shores of the Lagoon. These people are the backbone of our community-based efforts. What makes these Champions so special? Our volunteers are innovative, intelligent, and dedicated people mostly in their mid-twenties(!), either in college or a few years outside of graduation, giving back to their community while exploring the natural world and expressing themselves with utmost compassion. They are impressive people providing the greatest proof of that care: their action. FOCL’s Champions are regular people who have found something special in a little wetland and each of them has their own reason for caring. But at the Lagoon what they share is a community built around mutual appreciation and love of the natural world that, in the last 18 months, is over 2200 volunteers strong. Today a handful of those Champions decided that taking a couple hours to wander about the Lagoon exploring birds and plants before sweating a little to nurture those same creatures was valuable to them. It is an inspiring act when those are the values chosen by people who have every opportunity to put their energies elsewhere. FOCL, the Colorado Lagoon and the surrounding Long Beach community are fortunate to have these committed Champions investing their time and energy and demonstrating what is valuable to them.

While the Champions were busily working on the habitat, a group – or rather, a pack— of cubs and tigers descended on the Lagoon. An intimidating number of these scouts were scouring the beaches of the Lagoon for trash trying to understand why litter is even there at all. When I met up with them each had a plastic grocery bag in one hand and a stick or rock or leaf or feather in the other. All tools necessary toward trash cleanups, for sure. This rowdy bunch met with the intention of cleaning the Lagoon and you can only imagine how excited they were to see the giant earthmovers that are currently stationed on the adjacent roads, on weekend break from the Lagoon restoration. We went on a brief nature walk to explore the colors and scents of the flowering habitat in full spring showiness and all were delighted to stand by a field of California Poppies while Forster Terns were diving in the Lagoon water, fishing for Topsmelt. We explored more and had a great time thinking about what it would be like to drive the back-hoe. And then this energetic pack met the Champions at work.

Introducing the group of scouts to the group of Champions was fun for me because, in the end, we’re all playing and we all have a purpose. The scouts came for trash and experienced the dynamic habitat while getting dirty and playing with their friends. The Champions did much of the same. The big construction equipment on-site right now is really wonderful because it is the evidence of at least 10 years of work trying to make this restoration happen. Equally inspiring and a concept that is joyously difficult to fathom is that there were two generations of people – 6 year olds and 26 year olds – that were at the Lagoon today that will now accept those earthmovers as fact, that see a hard-won restoration not as a hard-won restoration but as something that just is. These two inspiring groups of people who chose to give their Saturday to fixing the Lagoon in their own ways, now know that that’s the way the world is, a world where positive restorative activity occurs. That is very hopeful. And it is their respective evolving worldviews that is inspiring.

Taylor Parker
Education Director
Friends of Colorado Lagoon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day Planting

Congratulations Friends of Colorado Lagoon. WE have completed our first successful planting season at Colorado Lagoon. WE have established new coastal habitat in the City of Long Beach. WE have reached a new level. WE are now the proud care takers of a 50,000 squarefoot piece of restored California coastline.
What an opportunity for a young restoration ecologist like myself to be involved with such a holistic and successful project. I have made so many new friends and colleagues. Since November 2008, people from all over the greater Long Beach area came to the Lagoon and sunk their heart and sole into 2 hours of restoration and education. Many people returned again and again, and got to watch the eastern Bank of Colorado Lagoon transform. People became my friends...friends to each other and friends of nature.
And WE all learned so much! From tree removal debates, to smoldering mulch piles, barking dogs and exodus from the WAMSEC. Through all of the challenges that come with any project, we always kept on learning. WE improved our techniques. WE accepted criticism and performed at higher levels. WE learned our native plant names. WE worked together.
I really want to thank everyone for helping me be a better restoration ecologist. Most of what I did for this project was based on my passion for nature, however a good percentage of what I did was for you, it was for people. I lead this project not only to install some of my favorite botanical species, but also to reconnect people with plants and natural living. To reconnect people with natives of California. And to connect people to their home...Long Beach, California, USA, Planet Earth. FOCL built something permanent. WE built pride in our community.
It will be so great to have conversations with all of the people that will be walking the FOCL Champions Trail along the east bank for years to come.