A neglected vernal pool on Del Playa Drive may undergo considerable work to restore it to its natural state, if the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) can find the money necessary to finance the project.
Diane Conn, one of the IVRPD directors, said the board is currently trying to raise the money needed to restore the vernal pool on the 6800 block of DP. IVRPD general manager Derek Johnson said the restoration plan is estimated to cost approximately $25,000 and the IVRPD still needs grants to finance the project.
“We’re looking for some grants, especially from the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Program and some other agencies as well,” Johnson said.
Conn said a recent lawsuit filed by the Libertarian Party has delayed much of the IVRPD’s budgeting process, making it difficult to fund the restoration project immediately, but said she hopes the Shoreline Preservation Fund (SPF) will help contribute to the area’s restoration.
“We’ve had this lawsuit hanging over our heads, and finally it may be over,” Conn said. “If that’s behind us, we’re just at functioning and it’s going to take us a couple of years to recover. But there’s a lot of money out there for the restoration of vernal pools.”
Vernal pools are created when shallow depressions in the ground formed from certain types of soil allow the land to retain rainwater for longer periods of time. Don Hartley, founder of Growing Solutions – the environmental restoration company working with the county to refurbish the land – said the pools are valuable habitats for rare birds and plants.
By erecting barriers and signs informing pedestrians of the vernal pool’s value as an ecological site, Hartley said the IVRPD hopes to protect the land from further damage from off-road vehicles driving on the vernal pools and from students who walk along the trail. He said the project would also include cleaning and restoring portions of the surrounding land that has been ruined.
IVRPD project biologist David Hubbard said workers will remove all non-native weeds from the area, and will collect and germinate native seeds in the Growing Solutions’ nursery located in I.V. so they can eventually repopulate the area with indigenous plants.
“There aren’t going to be any power tools or anything,” Hubbard said. “It’s going to be a super light touch.”
Johnson said the IVRPD has been considering plans to restore the vernal pool since 1998, when it acquired the land upon which the pool sits. Conn said local litter and mistreatment of the area has made it necessary for the IVRPD to step in and protect the land.
“People drive in there and people also use it as a dumping site during move-out,” Conn said. “We’ve had carpet dumped there. I just want to make sure it doesn’t get damaged by some airhead driving in there and either dumping stuff or doing wheelies.”
Approximately 90 percent of coastal mesa vernal pools have been destroyed, Hubbard said, making it especially important to restore and protect this particular pool.
“We’re already down to the last few and [vernal pools like this] probably used to be all over on these coastal mesas,” Hubbard said. “Camino Lindo is the last place where there is still a vernal pool on a coastal mesa, so preserving what’s unique about I.V. is part of it. There’s a bunch of plants and animals that only live in vernal pools, and most of the vernal pools in California have been destroyed, so it’s a unique space.”
Hartley said he thinks the IVRPD has a good chance of receiving crucial grant money from the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Program.
“We’ve been told that we have a good shot at it,” Hartley said.
Scott Bull, grants manager for SPF, which works to protect UCSB’s coastal resources, said the group will contribute some of the money it receives from a $3 per-student, per-quarter lock-in fee to the vernal pool project.
“Shoreline Preservation Fund is actually going to be helping with the funding for the restoration of the vernal pool, paying some internships and the contractor to do some work out there, but as of now we’re not exactly sure of how much in the budget it’s going to be,” Bull said. “I’m sure we’ll be helping out wherever we can – not just with the funding.”
Hubbard said the IVRPD and Growing Solutions want the whole community involved in the restoration.
“We’re going to have workshops and people will come help collect seeds and pull weeds,” Hubbard said.
Hartley said he thinks the vernal pool restoration project could be a good stepping stone toward improving other areas of I.V.
“It’s a great educational opportunity,” Hartley said. “We thought it would be great to get the community involved, and once that gets the community excited we can start working on other degraded sites in Isla Vista.”