Laurel Telfer, Jr. Stewards Board Liaison: It’s been 20 years now, since October of 1996 that community members have come by the thousands to help the Land Trust work toward its mission of restoration of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. As part of the Stewards Program, these hard working folks have removed non-native plants, replaced them with over 40,000 California native seedlings and watered everything by hand twice every month, in every kind of weather. Many people have also brought along their young children, so many in fact that in the spring of 2009, the Jr. Stewards program was born. These kids have been growing up before our very eyes and now, two of them, Vanessa Bloom and Morgen Hansen have earned the right to “graduate” to full Steward status. They are remarkable girls and we are exceptionally proud of their commitment and leadership.
“Vanessa Bloom is the original founder of the Bolsa Chica Jr. Stewards. Her idea was to create an environmentally-minded youth organization to engage in real projects to restore the Mesa. Vanessa has grown up from that girl with the lineup bangs, and her vibrant spirit has grown too. Vanessa has the skill to work with people of all ages and abilities. She can discuss a project with an older adult and return to a conversation with a six-year-old she was helping. Her intelligence and drive are unquestionable, and she also has the passion for Doctor Who and other teenage pursuits.”
Danny Hasheminejad, Jr. Stewards Coordinator
I have been involved with the Bolsa Chica Land Trust since I was old enough to hold a (toddler-sized) shovel and help place plants into the ground. When I was younger, I did not think of going out and helping the Bolsa Chica Land Trust as any different an activity than going to classes, grocery shopping, or doing homework. It was just something that I did, another activity I enjoyed. It was not until much later that I realized that the Bolsa Chica Land Trust is something that is truly unique in my childhood experience. Not many children get the opportunity to spend time outdoors in one of California’s few remaining wetlands, much less help restore them to their former glory.
I owe my love of the wetlands entirely to my family – my parents, who brought me and my sister every month, and my grandparents, who taught me that even if you can no longer do the volunteer work on the wetlands there are other ways to help. In fact, one of my earliest memories is going with my grandmother to deliver some paperwork to the Bolsa Chica Land Trust office.
By the time my sister and I co-founded the Jr. Stewards, going out the Bolsa Chica every third Saturday and first Sunday was a habit. From talking to volunteers, organizing activities for workdays, and educating others, being a leader of the Jr. Stewards showed me a different side of conservation – leadership, organization, and education. It also brought me in contact with those who did not agree with the work that I was doing. I had to learn how to make convincing arguments that the Bolsa Chica Land Trust is doing valuable and necessary work. The skills and values I learned from working with the Land Trust are ones I will carry with me as I graduate to become a Steward and into my life in the future.
“Don’t mess with Morgen Hansen. She is an archer who is also armed with wit. On top of that, she is a great steward, so you should probably listen to what she says. Morgen is not one to hang by the snack table and dilly-dally on her phone. She gets straight into the dirt and starts to plant, weed, water… whatever is necessary. Morgen will undoubtedly be a strong asset for years to come here at Bolsa Chica.”
Danny Hasheminejad, Jr. Stewards Coordinator
Relaxing. It might not be the first thing you think about when hauling water or planting prickly tar plants, but it’s why I like volunteering at Bolsa Chica. The openness of the mesa and its quietness, despite being so close to the PCH, draw me back each month. It’s like traveling to the middle of nowhere, while still being in the middle of busy Orange County and Huntington Beach. These things are why I have valued my time with the Jr. Stewards and look forward to continuing to volunteer in the future.
I have learned so much more than just restoring the mesa from being around the older stewards. Though they might not know it, they have taught me to be more aware of the world around me – not just in noticing the plants and animals of Bolsa Chica, but what is happening in the wider world. They have shown me that caring about the work I do is important and leads to real change, even if small–like that well-built berms make a difference in the survival of our native plants. I hope to be able to continue working as a full-fledged steward for many years to come.