It is a rare feat in California to find a place untouched by cement and asphalt. A concrete jungle of homes, schools and businesses have taken over the natural habitats of many animal and plant species, often forcing them to find new homes.
Mallard ducks, brown pelicans and kingsnakes are just a few of the many wildlife animals that call Upper Newport Bay their home.
For the last 50 years, the Newport Bay Conservancy has dedicated its time, resources and efforts to ensure the Upper Newport Bay and its wildlife doesn’t see the same cement and asphalt-filled future.
“Not only are there fish in danger, there’s birds, there’s coyotes, there’s bobcats that are losing their homes due to overdevelopment here in Southern California,” said Nicholas Moreno, senior public relations student and MANTA Communications member.
In an event hosted by a student-created organization called MANTA Communications, Newport Bay Conservancy presented informational boards, fun facts and animal pelts to the Golleher Alumni House on Tuesday.
Moreno said being so close to beach communities motivated the group to work with an organization that focuses on environmental issues.
By hosting the event on campus, the organization hopes more students will stop by the Newport Bay Conservancy and learn about their efforts.
The learning experience for Moreno and members of MANTA didn’t start and finish with the event. Moreno said the students spent a day working with Newport Bay Conservancy in Upper Newport Bay where they cleared an island of trash and overgrown weeds.
Since working with the conservancy, Moreno said his eyes have been opened to the few natural habitats that are left.
“We don’t really think about (overdevelopment) too much because it’s our home, but going out there to see how little land there is left that’s protected, it was kind of a wake-up call,” Moreno said.
Officially recognized as an ecological reserve in 1975, the bay has been untouched by human development. It is an estuary, coastal wetland where freshwater and saltwater meet. The unique environment creates an area ideal for a diverse array of species.
Heather Cieslak, the operations director for the conservancy, said places like the bay are important to preserve not only for animals and plants, but also as a place for people to de-stress and unwind.
The nonprofit offers kayak tours and nature walks to teach people about the estuary in unique ways. It has also planned events like Clean Up Day and Earth Day at the bay to increase awareness and get people involved.
“We really want everybody to get out there and experience it. There’s nothing like being out on the water and seeing a tern dive right in front of you to capture a fish,” Cieslak said.
At the event, tables were set up for visitors to learn more about the bay and the conservancy.
One table had different animal pelts and skulls laid out for people to guess the types of animals native to the bay. The activity allowed people to ask questions about the species while also learning about their environmental role in the bay.
A poster displaying dozens of plants and animals that live in Upper Newport Bay was also laid out for visitors to color in and offered a unique way for people to learn about the area.
Bridget Bark, who lives in Huntington Beach, stopped by after seeing a social media post about the event. Not familiar with the efforts of organizations like the Newport Bay Conservancy, she said she left the event hoping to get more involved and take part in more activities.
“This is how people learn and get further into being activists,” Bark said.