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Reason to Preserve Marina Peninsula

September 29, 1988

Both the article (Times, Aug. 21) and the letter from Arnold Springer (Times, Sept. 1) regarding the controversy over extension of the bike path through the Marina Peninsula failed to mention one important element: the California Least Tern.

The Marina Peninsula contains a major nesting site for this bird, now on the Endangered Species List. Why is it on the list? Because it must nest on open sand beaches, and there are very few left not teeming with people during the summer, its nesting season. Because the Marina Peninsula lacks access, and therefore is not crowded even at the height of summer, the terns have found a protected spot to nest and hatch their young.

As chairman of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, I am primarily concerned about the preservation of the last major wetland in Los Angeles County. Part of that concern is the protection of the wildlife, which use and inhabit the wetland. It's been gratifying to see the slow but definite increase in Least Tern population because they finally have found a beach in Los Angeles that is isolated enough to protect them during their vulnerable nesting season.

Let me make it clear that our organization is grateful for the consistent support the Venice Town Council and Arnold Springer, personally, have given us in our fight to save Ballona. I also generally support Springer's stance promoting more beach access, and I deplore the attitude that public beaches are private enclaves for those wealthy enough to live there. Living at the beach myself (in Playa del Rey, not the Marina Peninsula), I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that I live next to a public playground. I have noise, litter, people parking in my driveway, beach-cleaning machines roaring by at 6 o'clock in the morning. But I also have a front yard that's one of the world's wonders, so it's worth the price. Because that yard is public, it belongs to anyone who wants to use it, and all are welcome.

But I do question the ideology that says every square inch of beach has to be for human recreation. It happens that a particular, very beautiful and rare bird, which must nest on sand has chosen the Marina Peninsula. It may be a lucky choice for those residents who are selfish and don't want the "riffraff" on "their" beach, and that's a galling situation if you're irritated by the privileges that go with wealth. But think of it this way: It's also very lucky for the Least Tern that a small portion of Los Angeles beach is quiet enough to afford the protection it needs to hatch and raise its young.

One of the ironies of this world, for instance, is the fact that some of our best wetlands only survive because the military owns them, and the Ballona Wetlands are still here only because a quirky millionaire named Howard Hughes, who probably didn't give a damn about the environment, chose, for his own reasons, not to develop them.

It's sometimes hard to reconcile all the needs of people and the rest of nature. But for once, let's leave well enough alone and grant the endangered Least Tern a little solitude--for survival's sake.

RUTH LANSFORD

Playa del Rey

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