The Annenberg Foundation may build a new interpretive center on the Ballona Wetlands that will house exhibits and conduct educational programs of the area.
The plan has upset local nonprofit Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, which advocates for a restored wetlands area that remain free of man-made structures. While it does not oppose the idea of an interpretive center, it believes it should be placed off-site.
“We encourage the Annenberg Foundation to find a suitable site for this facility that does not encroach on the remaining 600 acre, publicly-owned Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, which is a small fraction of the original 2000 plus acre ecosystem,” Walter Lamb, president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, said in a letter.
The California Fish and Wildlife Department has been working since last summer on restoration plans for the Ballona Wetlands, and it announced on Sunday that it expects to move forward with the Annenberg Foundation on Monday on the $50 million interpretive center project.
“We are unaware of any attempt to inform the public of this pending deal prior to yesterday’s news release, despite the fact that we have been actively engaged with the above mentioned agencies for several years with regard to the future of Ballona,” Lamb said in a letter. “This follows a long pattern from these agencies of keeping such back-room agreements from the public for as long as possible to avoid public scrutiny.”
The proposed 46,000-square-foot project would include classrooms, wildlife exhibits, an auditorium, veterinary facilities for local wildlife, retail space and an office for staff.
The wetlands area originally encompassed over 2,000 acres, but after years of development, only about 600 acres remain. The California Fish and Wildlife Department, formerly the Fish and Game Department, has been working on an environmental impact report since last summer to revitalize the wetlands.
If restored, migratory birds and the public would have access to a larger wetlands area. Restoration involves creating levees along the perimeter of the project area as well as removing existing levees to create a meandering channel.