Kendall-Frost Marsh hosts Love Your Wetlands Day 2023

Love Your Wetlands Day 2023
A bird’s eye view of volunteers in the marsh. Image: Craig Chaddock

UC San Diego

More than 500 community volunteers joined state representatives, local conservation advocates and representatives of the Kumeyaay nation gathered Feb. 4, 2023 at the UC Natural Reserve System’s Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve to celebrate UC San Diego’s annual Love Your Wetlands Day. This year, the California Volunteers, Office of the Governor, joined the celebration in support of Community Climate Action Day – San Diego. Thanks to their partnership and that of the San Diego Audubon, this year’s 18th annual event was the largest Love Your Wetlands Day on record. 

Participants joined hands-on activities, explored the protected marsh, assisted in cleanup efforts, and learned about research taking place to quantify and qualify how the rare urban wetlands habitat benefits the region’s air, ocean and wildlife. Volunteers with San Diego Audubon helped provide tours and educate visitors about birds like the endangered Ridgway’s rails that call the marsh home.

Love Your Wetlands Day 2023
Volunteers listen to instructions on how to replant native species before going to work in the marsh. Image: Craig Chaddock

The marsh is a refuge for juvenile fish, endangered bird species, and a host of unique native plants that depend upon coastal wetlands for survival. The February event is the only time each year that the public is invited to visit the habitat because casual attendance would disrupt the delicate ecosystem. There’s only one rule for touring the marsh on Love Your Wetlands Day: Anyone who goes in has to pick up trash. This year’s volunteers removed nearly 300 pounds of it, over 60 percent of which was plastic.

“As stewards of Kendall-Frost Marsh, UC San Diego values this dynamic marsh region and the opportunities it offers to learn more about pressing environmental issues like carbon sequestration, wildlife cultivation and climate change in urban centers,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are proud to welcome visitors to Love Your Wetlands Day, and appreciate the opportunity to connect with our regional and state partners, demonstrate the importance of wetlands and celebrate this important regional resource.”

Love Your Wetlands Day 2023
Stan Rodriguez of the Santa Ysabel Band of the Kumeyaay Nation (center) shows volunteers how to craft a traditional tule boat. Image: Craig Chaddock

“Every level of government must take action on the climate crisis – and we at the City of San Diego are stepping up to do so,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “I’m grateful to all the volunteers who gathered to do their part during the city-wide day of climate action. When big cities like San Diego lead, others will follow. And where California leads, the world follows.” 

He also mentioned the city’s newly launched paid internship program. Employ & Empower, an initiative to support 1,000 paid interns across a variety of industries and departments within the City, will include teams focused on implementing and executing his Climate Action Plan. Funding provided by the State of California’s Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday and California Volunteers will allow these students to gain valuable, real world experience and develop valuable career skills. He encouraged interested students to learn more and apply at the Employ & Empower website.

Love Your Wetlands Day 2023
Artists visited the marsh to capture the beauty of the landscape. Photo by Craig Chaddock

Richard Norris, professor of paleobiology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and faculty director of the UC San Diego Natural Reserve System, along with Sean Reese, a graduate student in Global Policy and Strategy and Beverly Scharnhorst, a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, jointly authored an opinion piece about the economic impact of the reserves in this week’s San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego’s economy will benefit from restoring and growing Mission Bay’s wetlands.

“Our project estimates what it would be worth to implement the ReWild Mission Bay Coalition’s “wildest” plan, which would create 227 acres of new wetland directly adjacent to Kendall-Frost Marsh (currently 40 acres in size) at the northern shore of Mission Bay,” the trio write in the article.

Love Your Wetlands Day 2023
Community volunteers paddle in traditional Kumeyaay tule boats, or Ha Kwaiyo. Image: Craig Chaddock

They go on to explain how the wetlands could contribute at least $1 million in value to the region every year based on the selected wetland amenities they considered in their study, including wildlife conservation and property protection.

Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve is part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System, a library of ecosystems throughout California representing most of the state’s major habitats. The UC San Diego Natural Reserve System includes Kendall-Frost Marsh and three other protected natural habitats that offer researchers and educators the opportunity to use outdoor laboratories for scientific discovery and classrooms. The Natural Reserves are a vital resource for measuring the effects of climate change and developing strategies to reverse it. The network demonstrates the utility of undeveloped green spaces not intended for recreation.

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