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

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