Grantee Spotlight: Amigos De Bolsa Chica
Amigos de Bolsa Chica is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization that was formed in 1976 by a group of Huntington Beach residents to protect the Bolsa Chica wetlands from development. The Bolsa Chica wetlands were once part of many acres of coastal wetland that was filled for urban development in the 20th century. Concerned about the statewide loss of coastal wetlands, Amigos de Bolsa Chica pledged to protect, preserve, and acquire the Bolsa Chica wetlands and surrounding open space. Amigos de Bolsa Chica also provides education about this unique ecosystem primarily through private and public wetland tours for schools, scouts, and a community science-based water quality analysis program called Follow and Learn about the Ocean and Wetlands (FLOW). With 90% of California’s wetlands gone, the goal of community-based education programs centered on the Bolsa Chica is to create greater awareness of the state’s threatened biodiversity and invite the surrounding community to participate in protecting the fragile ocean-wetland ecosystem.
Creating impact through partnership
Being awarded with a 2022 State Parks Improvement grant has allowed Amigos De Bolsa Chica to hire a Volunteer Coordinator. The role of the Volunteer Coordinator is to create opportunities for volunteers who have never before felt welcome or compelled to spend time at the coast, which can help foster a sense of belonging in parks. Whether it’s an organized FLOW field trip or naturalist training, wetland tours, bird walks, restoration days, or special events like the Running for the Birds, these types of activities can create an atmosphere of fun around learning about coastal ecosystems. Additionally, this position has been tasked with addressing the organization’s larger goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through the established volunteer community science program, FLOW, Amigos De Bolsa Chica plans to generate greater diversity, equity, and inclusion of all members of the community in environmental stewardship activities.
Creating space for volunteers of different backgrounds can provide new ideas, or a different perspective on how best to support parks and the local communities. In the face of climate change, Amigos De Bolsa Chica is looking to learn from those most affected by the inequities caused by climate change, and unjust systems that have been created to limit who is involved in environmental stewardship. While Amigos De Bolsa Chica understands it would not be realistic to ask anyone who does not have the time or economic freedom to be a volunteer, a Volunteer Coordinator can succeed in creating a plan that fosters inclusion in environmental stewardship.
The benefit for parks
People depend on parks and open spaces for emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Beach and wetland ecosystems, such as Bolsa Chica State Beach, are places for recreation as well as important sites for biodiversity. Climate change is beginning to affect our coastal ecosystems in unprecedented ways, and it disproportionately affects those experiencing socioeconomic inequalities, including people of color and low-income communities. When we can connect people to their parks in a meaningful way, we can create awareness about issues parks face. And we can create a community of advocates who can help care for parks now and for future generations.