By Ken Stone and Chris Stone
Edie Munk watched Sunday as local and state lawmakers flocked to a heart-shaped piece of Mission Bay acreage set aside as marshlands, home of two endangered species.
While mourning Friday’s death of her legendary oceanographer father, Walter Munk, Edie took time to honor the legacy of her grandmother and great-grandmother.
Lena Kendall and daughter Edith Kendall Horton deeded land around their Pacific Beach home in 1952 to the University of California, eventually creating the Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve southwest of Mission Bay High School.“I wish that my great-grandmother and grandmother had written a directive when they donated this land,” Munk said after the presentation, Love Your Wetlands Day, delayed a week because of heavy rains.
Munk, 62, said such a stipulation would have called for the marshes to be restored to their “original health and lushness, and let the kids put their toes in the mud,” and expanded the wetlands, “so it serves our community and environment like it used to.”
That got no argument from San Diego City Council members Chris Ward and Jen Campbell, as well as county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Assemblyman Todd Gloria.
They cited the climate- and species-protection value of the 21-acre reserve, part of 40 acres of rare California wetlands that once covered 2,000 acres before Mission Bay was created via dredging and filling.
(The tidal marsh had been named “False Bay” by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.)
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Gloria, who recalled his role as interim mayor in writing San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, noted the scenic venue, open to the public only once a year.
“This is dangerous to give a speech like this,” he said amid the “phenomenal” view. “That’s a ’10’ every day of the year, right?”
He called Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, also present but not a speaker, “a fellow climate warrior.” And he declared: “Sign myself up for protecting and expanding and enhancing [the marsh]. This is the kind of stuff that we want to protect.”
Gonzales’s husband, Nathan Fletcher, hailed the Munk clan — “your entire family means so much” — and said the county should “play a bigger role” and do more to expand wetlands.
“When you look at the staggering percentages of marshlands that have been lost,” he said, “you understand the really important role” they plan in carbon sequestration and other environmental good.
Chris Ward, the District 3 councilman who held his infant in a baby carrier on his chest while touring the marsh, said every day should be Love Your Wetlands Day.
“It’s really a treasure that we need to protect, that we need to restore, that we need to expand where possible,” he said amid a context of how to preserve the Campland property — and its economic value to San Diego finances.
Ward shared his pride in the council passing a polystyrene ban.
“We are now the largest city in the entire state that has such an ordinance,” he said. “When I saw some of the garbage out here, even the toss-away food trays, that’s the kind of thing we … don’t want in our watersheds” and ocean.
Dr. Jen Campbell, the new councilwoman whose District 2 includes Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, observed the dozens of birds “having a wonderful time. We’re so lucky that this … is part of the Pacific Flyway, and that we get to enjoy it in our own back yard.”
It takes a lot of care to keep the marsh and its inhabitants healthy, she said.“This is part of saving our planet,” Campbell told a gathering of about 100 people hosted by the San Diego Audubon Society and the UC Natural Reserve System. “Please keep it up. We’re just gonna progress and progress and do better and better.”
Guided walks — with participants required to wear provided rubber boots — were part of events, along with live raptor show-and-tell, storytelling by a Kumeyaay representative and children’s activities.
Munk, a La Jollan whose family had a role in the marsh preservation, noted the presence of kids and students.
“We are trying to get the [science] trailer rebuilt, so that it can serve more young people and people who like to stay out here in the marsh and like to observe things 24 hours, so that’s what I am behind right now. I am fundraising for that.”
Carol Lord of Bay Park appreciated the serenity: “It’s nice to have been out where there are usually not people.”
Ellen Scott, also on the tour, called the space “beautiful, very peaceful” and said it should be open more often. “It would build community. … Some people living nearby don’t know that this exists. It has too quiet a footprint.”
She also criticized the adjacent Campland property: “It’s not the city’s responsibility to provide cheap tourist accommodations…. Building a hotel in the area would be shortsighted.”
Isabelle Kay, administrative director for the UC Natural Reserve System, hailed the event as a “really important time for people to bond with the habitat and to realize that it’s not just a stinky swamp.”
She hoped that the event would add momentum to marsh-expansion efforts — and later allow boardwalks to accommodate visitors.
But she understood why the public couldn’t visit it daily.
“This is so small that it really doesn’t function as a natural marsh,” Kay said. “This tiny patch is all that is left to support migrating birds that fly from as far away as Chile to the Arctic, so it really is something that connects us all.”
Steve Lord, Carol’s husband, admired the “unusual and very positive” concentration of birds.
He summed up feelings shared by many: “If we don’t take care of Mother Nature, who will?”
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