16 May, 2009
Book Review: Bolsa Chica-Its History from Prehistoric Times To The Present
“Bolsa Chica-Its History from Prehistoric Times To The Present” by David M. Carlberg
This is the definitive “Bible” of Bolsa Chica (a strip of land on the coast of Orange County, 40 miles south of downtown Los Angeles), graphically depicting it’s place in history from ancient times to the present as well as the attempts to save it. Well-researched and beautifully written by a retired professor at Long Beach State, it’s a fascinating tale about descendants from Asia who came to Bolsa Chica over 8,000 years ago; about Native Americans, who lived there in Winter months; about a Spanish cattle ranch, farms, a famous Gun Club, the site of a coastal defense battery in World War II, and major oil discoveries that both saved some of the area from urban development and also destroyed habitat. Carlberg really shows what people can do when they band together, persevere, educate and help save much of a wetlands.
You’ll learn about Gabrielino/Tongva, Bolsa Chica’s last Native American occupants, who made reed boats and plank canoes; the trading ships that would stash their goods on Catalina before paying duties in Monterey on a small load, then retreaving their huge cargoes, and the immense significance of Bolsa Chica to the migratory birds. Anyone living in SoCal (or anywhere else, who’s interested in history or saving their environment,) will be intrigued by what Carlberg reveals about this special area–things like:
–”Coastal wetlands are phenomenal food factories, producing many times more organic matter than a corn or wheat field.”
–”In the early 1900s, a popular demonstration shown to HB visitors was to fill an empty milk bottle with water from the kitchen tap, seal the bottle until gas bubbles rose to the surface, then open the bottle and place a lighted match above the opening. The muffled pop and bright yellow flash usually prompted applause and requests for encores.” Some thought the gas indicated the presence of oil beneath the HB. Indeed, “By the end of 1923, 232 wells had been drilled thoughout the city, producing over 33 million barrels of oil and 41 million cubic feet of gas.”
Bravo to the Amigos de Bolsa Chica for publishing this worthwhile work that not only tells of their origin in 1975 but the Bolsa Chica Conservancy in 1990 and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust in 1992. Carlberg, who spent years researching and writing this book, painstakingly and objectively ties together the whole Bolsa Chica story, including its restoration process. Good News: Surveys show that in 2007, there were 99 bird species sighted; in 2008, 136 species were sighted. Fish species increased from 19 in 2007 to 41 in 2008.
He appropriately ends the book with, “From all indications so far, for those few folks who began meeting in kitchens and living rooms during the 1970s and for all those who followed, their hopes and dreams may be very close to fulfillment.” (Reviewed by Debbie Stock)