By Roy Little
There is a unique opportunity to expand the wetlands in the north-east corner of Mission Bay due to the ending of the 50-year lease for Campland and the legal agreement to have De Anza Cove vacated.
The San Diego Audubon Society is leading a planning and study effort to investigate the options of a wetlands-oriented expansion of the marsh. The existing wetland is shown in dark green at the right side, Campland and Rose Creek in the lower center and De Anza Cove to the left.
Until roughly a hundred years ago Rose Creek flowed through the marsh but was re-routed to make development easier. From a wetlands and water quality perspective the original flow of the Rose Creek is important in order to help purify storm water before it reaches the bay and provide nutrients to make the marsh more healthy.
The initial conceptual study is funded and should be completed in one to two years. The public and lease-holders will be involved and decisions will eventually be made by the City of San Diego since almost all the property is city-owned. Since this topic impacts many aspects of the local environment, life and culture, it is important that residents get involved and provide constructive comments.
Wetlands are an important but under-appreciated part of our environment. In particular, salt-water wetlands are an important part of our local Mission Bay, providing nursery functions for many of the fish and feeding grounds for thousands of migrating birds every year.
The only remaining salt-water marsh in Mission Bay is the Kendall-Frost Reserve (University of California) and the contiguous Northern Wildlife Preserve (City of San Diego), roughly 40 acres out of the original several thousand acres that existed before the major developments of the 1950s.
Given the fact that saltwater marshes are inundated with saltwater twice a day, only plants and animals that have evolved appropriately can survive and thrive there. Almost by definition saltwater marshes are very flat and elevation changes of a foot mean the plant species change due to differing conditions.
In addition there has to be a transition from saltwater environment to normal non-salt conditions around the edge. Many species of marsh animals crowd to the transition zone at high tide. This transition zone has been severely degraded here by developments and its loss will become even more serious as sea level rises since the marsh cannot expand naturally.
A small restoration effort is being undertaken beside the UC trailer at the corner of Pacific Beach Drive and Crown Point Drive in the K-F Reserve. Covering about 1.5 acres, the effort is limited to the transition zone and upland and has so far removed invasive non-native plants, lots of concrete and asphalt, and smoothed out the slopes so the transition zone can work as water level rises. Volunteers have since planted some 400 native plants (12 different species), ranging from High-marsh Pickleweed to CA Buckwheat. More will be planted around the beginning of 2016 once more funding and plants are available.
Below are a few of the local birds that get their food from the marsh and bay:
All photos by Roy Little unless otherwise stated.