About two years ago my wife Rachael volunteered to be a docent at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve located between Sunset Beach and Huntington Beach. Separating it from Bolsa Chica State Beach is the Pacific Coast Highway. The two Bolsa Chica's have a symbiotic relationship with plants and animals, so what is good (or bad) for one is good (or bad) for the other.
The Amigos de Bolsa Chica, to which Rachael belongs, were instrumental in saving the Reserve from becoming a marina back in the 1970's, and over the years they have worked to remove the many oil wells from the area. The preservation of the Reserve also helped save the State Beach (formerly known as Tin Can Beach due to the trash and oil wells), and today the beach is a clean and beautiful sandy surf beach with many native and endangered plants. Rachael took over the maintenance of the native plants around the headquarters of the State Beach, and therefore I became a volunteer to do the heavy work. I love it.
I just received status as an official State Beach volunteer and also a free pass to all the State Beaches in Orange County. It just cost me 100 hours of free labor, a background check, and about two or three hours of filling out forms. But now I can go to the State Beaches anytime I wish and not have to pay the $15.00 entry fee just to go fishing.
Actually, the pass and fishing is just a bonus. In the past few months I have built retaining walls around the headquarters, and a secure tool shed to store gardening equipment. It was hard work, but very satisfying. About 50 years ago I walked away from a budding career as a brick mason, and I never looked back, but building the retaining walls brought back many memories (and sore muscles), and I'm glad I had the knowledge to do the work.
Volunteering my time, knowledge, and abilities is a joy I never expected. I was cleaning up some sand from a sidewalk and overheard some surfer dudes commenting on the retaining walls I had built. Basically they thought is was about time someone got off their ass and did something around there. I laughed out loud as I thought about that. They could have gotten off their asses (or surfboards) anytime and helped out, but they didn't. I guess I don't really care whether or not they choose to help. What I care about is whether or not someone appreciates the end results of my labor.
Each time I go to the beach now I overhear someone comment about the improvements. My part is just a small piece of the action. Now school groups are asking if they can help out. Corporations are asking if they can donate to the process. Wow.
As I write this El Nino is bringing its heavy rains to the area, and I just returned from examining the new retaining walls. They are working as I had hoped they would, and I actually got to see them in action. My work isn't complete, but I'm on the right track. The only problem is the cost of the materials and the laborers. There is only one of me, and the school participants don't have enough of life's experiences to be of much help without a lot, a lot, of direction. Not that I mind giving them direction and instructions that will help them grow as individuals, but the progress on the walls is slow as a result. Still, this is a project that will take years beyond my own lifetime to complete. I just hope someone will come along with similar vision to improve the state beach and pick up the torch.