FORM Environment: Engaging with Nature

The Summer Clock/Winter Ramp is one of the landscape features Clark Stevens designed to engage visitors to the newly-restored Malibu Lagoon. Image courtesy Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation.

This spring, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with its project partners, including the State Coastal Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission celebrated the restoration of the Malibu Lagoon. It’s considered by many to be one of the most ecologically significant wetlands restorations ever undertaken on the West Coast. One of its key players is architect Clark Stevens.

While the intention was to revive a waterway classified by many as threatened due to the chemical changes wrought by a build up of silt over the course of several decades, it was decided early on to create an environment that saved the wetland—and connected visitors to the place. “We were not merely satisfied with putting back critical endangered ecosystems,” Stevens says of the project. “The danger of locking something like this up is that people won’t get to know it. We wanted to create interests—and conservationists—where we wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

To that end, Stevens created a range of architectural and landscape features that draw visitors to the wetlands in expected and unexpected ways. One of the most compelling is the winter ramp/summer clock, one and the same, but with changing names to match their changing seasonal functions. In the fall and winter months, when the lagoon is open to the tides, the ramp leads visitors down to the tidal range. In the spring and summer, what was once a ramp slowly becomes submerged—time is marked as the water slowly and very visibly makes its way up the ramp.

The winter ramp/summer clock and other features (a bird blind, viewing platforms) “are put in places and positions where vistors can have amazing spatial experiences,” Stevens explains. “They can wonder about what is going on, read about it or ask someone about it.” Engaged, they themselves can become better stewards of the environment.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, will hold their 25th anniversary celebration on Thursday, October 17, at the Annenberg Community Beach House. For tickets and more information, click here.

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2 thoughts on “FORM Environment: Engaging with Nature

  1. patricia mcpherson October 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    The photograph used for this article appears to have been taken directly after opening the area to water and,or directly after another illegal breech occurred that allowed saltwater from the Santa Monica Bay to flow into the area. Shortly after the area was opened to the public, until current time, the Malibu Lagoon has appeared choked with algae mats. One can go online to view photographs of the area in local Malibu newspapers. No state monitoring reports have been produced to the public since the opening.

    It is of concern that Mr. Stevens plays dual roles of paid project leader at the Malibu Lagoon under the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Conservation District while also garnering the landscape architect paid role for himself and his own landscape company. Conflict of interest appears to have been rampant in the closed loop of contracts awarded for this project. Review of records appears to show lack of any apparent bidding by other companies. Spokespeople from the RCD have stated that there was no need for bidding as contracts were awarded to those that they have simply worked with in the past.

    As for the rampway in the photograph, records reveal state parks representatives concern regarding its potential to fill
    with silt and thus a need for regular removal of muds maintenance. That would be the least of worries, in this writer's opinion since the SLIP AND FALL potential in the ramp is an obvious drawback to such a design. However, we could find no discussion of how even a slight algae growth prompts an extremely slippery walkway. And, since the opening, we have only seen school bus loads of children turned away from the ramp area in what we believe is likely due to the thick cover of algae matting and concern for litigation due to a likely slip and fall scenario–now that the thing has been built. Mr. Clark also designed his ramp play area directly next to what is supposed to be a bird blind for hidden, quiet viewing of wildlife at the lagoon. If the rampway was able to be used as a splash and play area as envisioned by Stevens, it seems totally at odds with the adjacent blind. There is internal email discussion from state parks personnel who reviewed the designs which prompted their concerns for spending public money on park features that do not promote state parks–allowable natural feature enhancement. Alas, the concerns apparently are now smothered by algae, slip and fall amusement areas situated next to bird blinds.

    Considering all the misappropriated public funds that our state park personnel are still under fire for wrongdoing, it would be good to have a complete forensic audit done on Malibu Lagoon that would include Mr. Clark Stevens and his payments for controversial work product including conflict of interest.

    Patricia McPherson, Grassroots Coalition

  2. patricia mcpherson October 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    The photograph used for this article appears to have been taken directly after opening the area to water and,or directly after another illegal breech occurred that allowed saltwater from the Santa Monica Bay to flow into the area. Shortly after the area was opened to the public, until current time, the Malibu Lagoon has appeared choked with algae mats. One can go online to view photographs of the area in local Malibu newspapers. No state monitoring reports have been produced to the public since the opening.

    It is of concern that Mr. Stevens plays dual roles of paid project leader at the Malibu Lagoon under the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Conservation District while also garnering the landscape architect paid role for himself and his own landscape company. Conflict of interest appears to have been rampant in the closed loop of contracts awarded for this project. Review of records appears to show lack of any apparent bidding by other companies. Spokespeople from the RCD have stated that there was no need for bidding as contracts were awarded to those that they have simply worked with in the past.

    As for the rampway in the photograph, records reveal state parks representatives concern regarding its potential to fill
    with silt and thus a need for regular removal of muds maintenance. BTW- wasn't that supposed to be fixed by the new design–the silting problem as per this article? Silting however, would be the least of worries, in this writer's opinion since the SLIP AND FALL potential in the ramp is an obvious drawback to such a design. However, we could find no discussion of how even a slight algae growth prompts an extremely slippery walkway. And, since the opening, we have only seen school bus loads of children turned away from the ramp area in what we believe is likely due to the thick cover of algae matting and concern for litigation due to a likely slip and fall scenario–now that the thing has been built. Mr. Clark also designed his ramp play area directly next to what is supposed to be a bird blind for hidden, quiet viewing of wildlife at the lagoon. If the rampway was able to be used as a splash and play area as envisioned by Stevens, it seems totally at odds with the adjacent blind. There is internal email discussion from state parks personnel who reviewed the designs which prompted their concerns for spending public money on park features that do not promote state parks–allowable natural feature enhancement. Alas, the concerns apparently are now smothered by algae, slip and fall amusement areas situated next to bird blinds.

    Considering all the misappropriated public funds that our state park personnel are still under fire for wrongdoing, it would be good to have a complete forensic audit done on Malibu Lagoon that would include Mr. Clark Stevens and his payments for controversial work product including conflict of interest.

    Patricia McPherson, Grassroots Coalition

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