I recently took part in LMU’s Sophomore Day of Service where myself and a group of fellow Lions helped with a clean-up effort at the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve – which lies just below the bluff. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by other friendly volunteers who directed us to a meeting area set up with benches. The manager of Habitat Restoration, Patrick Tyrell, circled us up and led a discussion about the mission of the Ballona Wetlands. He explained that heavy rains create an influx in trash along the creek as the waters from upstream trickle down to the wetlands. The trash in those waters then accumulates on the outskirts of the creek and must be cleaned up, or will find its way into the ocean. This buildup of trash makes the helping hands of volunteers, such as LMU students, ever so vital as the waste continuously finds its way to the creek.
Being the monthly day of clean-up, fellow volunteers included other college students, community members, and middle school kids. As the volunteers listened to the instructions, we were told that we could choose between pulling the weeds not native to the land and endanger the native species, or go to the creek to pick up trash. My friends and I decided to venture to the creek to help reduce the amount of waste collecting on the shore.
To get to the Ballona creek, the group of us 25 volunteers took a ten-minute walk through a field lined with yellow daisies to reach the gates of the creek. Once we all reached the other side of the gate, we were handed a glove and one trash bag for every group of five people. With our grabber and trash bags in hand, the volunteers spread out down the length of the creek to search for items infesting the creek. Many of these pieces of trash included plastic straws, bags, cigarette butts, and lots of Styrofoam, all of which are extremely harmful to the plant and animal life living in and around the creek. Most of the trash we collected were smaller pieces stuck within the moss and bushes along the shoreline. These little pieces of trash are most important to pick up because of the ease with which they reach the water, and the possibility of being mistaken for food by fish.
As my friends and I noticed the large amounts of trash not only that we were collecting, but the other volunteers as well, we came to truly understand the importance of properly throwing our trash away. When people act carelessly and choose to litter, what may seem like a harmless straw can end up in the waters of the creek or the ocean. The debris effects the natural ecosystems it infests, as well as poses a threat to the animal life living in the environment. Volunteering for creek clean-up helped remind us of our responsibility to be proactive and help reduce the amount of trash we make.
Although we only helped for a little more than an hour, the creek volunteers worked together to collect 70 pounds of trash. In such a short amount of time, the large total of trash collected proves the importance of disposing of our waste properly, and volunteering to clean up the waste that doesn’t make its way to the trashcan.
During our time working together, my group and I listened to music, talked about our week, and showed each other our finds. It was a great opportunity to have fun and catch up with each other, while also working together to help our community by keeping the Ballona creek free of waste.