Monday, April 4, 2011

Malibu Legacy Park in California

Despite dire drought conditions and the onset of a La Nina, most parts of California experienced a wetter than average year with several strong storms smashing the coast and dozens of feet of snow dumped in the Sierras.  While this plentiful supply of water has temporarily ended concern about water shortages in the state, it also has brought with it a need for runoff management that retains and cleans urban runoff.

As such, it was a great year for the debut of Malibu Legacy Park, a park in Malibu, California including native plant landscaping and a huge 'bioswale'.


I visited Legacy Park on a warm March day in the midst of the rainy season.  The weather was dry, but most of the creeks in the Santa Monica Mountains were flowing well due to recent rains.  The record breaking storm of late March was not yet in the forecast.

The park acts like a huge rain garden, with water flowing in from the west, down a small constructed swale, and into a 'wet meadow'.  The entrance area for the water is rather neat looking despite the concrete.


Although water was flowing into the park, most of the water was not moving, but rather sitting in the little stream.


There was a good reason for this - the wet meadow was filled to the brim.  Unlike most neighborhood rain gardens, this one is designed so that it DOES have standing water after storms.


There were ducks and other birds using the area, which was full of bird life.  The shrubs and trees were still small, but the native meadow area was growing in nicely.  Presumably, the large 'wet meadow', as well as the little constructed vernal pools nearby (not sure how well those will work out, vernal pools are very hard to create!) will slowly dry up and allow native plants adapted to those types of areas to grow in.


The upland area was full of tidy tips and lupine, with some poppies coming up.
It looked a bit dry, probably because the plants that germinated in December rains had started going to seed, and those growing from February rains weren't blooming yet.  Because March ended up wet as well, I would guess that a lot of poppies are probably blooming in the area now, or will soon.  If anyone goes to see it, please let me know what it looks like!

I love native California wildflower/prairie habitat, and am really hoping this one does well.  These types of native plant landscapes can have a lot of weed problems early on and hopefully the city deals with this well.  Often there is the perception that native plant landscaping does not need maintenance, but it does - unlike a restoration site, which is meant to be left alone after a few years, native plant landscaping needs to be cared for, just like any landscaping.  It just doesn't take much if any water or fertilizer to keep it going.

If the city puts in enough weeding in the first few years, they will be rewarded with magnificent wildflower displays and reduced weeding as the native plants build a seed bank.  If adequate weeding doesn't occur, the meadow will go back to what it was before - a weedy patch of invasive herbaceous plants like mustard.

I really hope the project is a great success!  I'll be going back to visit this area next time I am in California.  Meanwhile, check it out yourself!  It's right by the Malibu Civic Center, adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway and just a small distance east of the intersection of PCH and Malibu Canyon/Las Virgenes Road.

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