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    COMMUNITY | Commentary on VC Star’s Wendy Leung’s Article | “City of Oxnard to Host Ormond Beach Clean Up Project”

    By Chistina Zubko
    Wendy Leung, a staff writer for the Ventura County Star, in her article, “City of Oxnard to Host Ormond Beach Clean Up Project” (January 7, 2020), informs readers about Saturday’s beach clean-up on the Ormond Beach island, off of Perkins Road. She describes what the clean-up will entail and why the Ormond Beach wetlands are important to at least two protected birds: the snowy plover and the least tern.  In her article she cites Chris Kroll of the State Coastal Conservancy (one of the three stewards of the property) who explains the damage last year’s homeless encampments had on Ormond Beach and the wildlife that depends on it.  She also notes that Eric Humel of Oxnard’s public works department and a biologist from the Ventura Audubon Society will be present.
    I applaud Ms. Leung for keeping Ormond Beach in the news. Thanks to her article, I can share an even much larger story behind Saturday’s clean up. This story is one about the power of community groups coming together and effecting much needed change.  For several months, Friends of Ormond Beach (FoOB) has engaged in discussions with Cynthia Hartley of the Ventura Audubon Society (VAS), Laura Oergel, Chair of Ventura Surfrider, and Kat Selm and Peter Dixon with The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  After the majority of the encampments were removed from TNC property in late November (to the tune of $40,000 billed to TNC), these organizations seized upon the opportunity to put together a calendar of clean-up dates that would be added to Oxnard’s two clean-up dates January 11 and February 8, 2020.  A total of three additional clean-up dates, hosted by the Ventura Surfrider Foundation, the VAS, and TNC were added to Oxnard’s two dates, and all of them would focus on different areas of Ormond Beach.  They would be intensive and thorough and be completed by March 1–just in time for the commencement of the snowy plover breeding and nesting season.
    Additionally, I can share the story of what a difference one group of Port Hueneme citizen-activists are making for Ormond Beach.  This group, Friends of Ormond Beach (FoOB), while not a non-profit, has offered continued support to the three non-profits (VAS, TNC, and Surfrider).  While you will not find the logo of FoOB at the bottom of any flyers advertising the Ormond Beach clean-ups, the group has kept Ormond Beach on the community’s radar.  Since April 2019, members of FoOB emailed numerous city, council, state, and federal elected officials to express concern over the encampments on Ormond Beach.  FoOB also partnered with Johnny Perez of A Dying California to capture drone footage to document the extent of the homeless encampments.  In addition, FoOB submitted articles to Hueneme Voice and to The Citizens Journal about the encampments on Ormond Beach and also took to the radio air-waves.  LA Talk Radio, KTVA, and KFI 640 gave FoOB air-time because they agreed that a broader audience needed to be made aware of the failure of the city of Oxnard to enforce city ordinance 2906, thereby endangering the already protected snowy plover further.  FoOB also worked closely with watershed scientist Tevin Schmitt of the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coast Keepers Program.  Remember that it was Schmitt who sampled the water from the Ormond Lagoon and found that the E. coli and enterococcus bacteria count was off the charts. FoOB also updated neighbors on Next Door about the progress being made on Ormond Beach and started a FaceBook page for the same purpose. In mid-December 2019, FoOB helped Hartely dismantle the dilapidated VAS fencing and signs that had been tampered with by the homeless.  FoOB also worked closely with Oxnard council woman Gabby Basua to launch a brand new beach clean-up regimen off of Arnold Road.  In late December, FoOB met with Selm and Dixon to discuss ways to support TNC with clean-up efforts on their newly abated property.  In early January, FoOB worked with Oergel not only to recruit volunteers for the various clean-ups but also to distribute beach clean-up flyers electronically and around the city of Port Hueneme. FoOB recruited volunteers from The Ventura Land Trust; Professor Danza’s Oxnard City College students; Port Hueneme AVID and JROTC students; Adolfo Camarillo High School students in the Naturally Green Club; the La Sierra Club; Southwinds Neighborhood; and the Savier’s Road Design Team. 
    These are the untold stories behind the January and February Ormond Beach clean up efforts. The city of Oxnard may be hosting two clean-ups in the next two months, but let’s also remember that it was the city of Oxnard that created this mess.  The damage done to this area is so extensive (with the volumes of trash, the fires, the stealing of snowy plover eggs, the bacteria in the lagoon) that it requires an exhaustive list of volunteers to clean it up.  If you can not make it to any of the clean ups, then perhaps you can stay vigilant. The amount time and money spent in the next two months to clean up the last year’s abuse of the wetlands should be reason enough to stop the vicious cycle that the city of Oxnard has engaged in with Ormond Beach.  Tax payers have a right to know just how much this clean-up is costing the city. If the cycle continues, not only will money run out and volunteers burn out but all the wildlife, including the over 200 migratory birds that stop at Ormond for a rest on their long migration, will die out.
    Christina Zubko is an environmental advocate, an activist for Friends of Ormond Beach (FoOB), and a volunteer journalist. Follow FoOB on Facebook or contact them by email at [email protected].

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