On Saturday, April 29, about 1,500 Wetland Avengers and Campeones de los Camones swarmed through Border Field State Park and Playas de Tijuana, stopping to examine things on the ground and around, pull out some plants and put in others. Many were dressed in camouflage to represent a commitment to enjoying the environment while leaving only positive impacts.
The event was organized by the nonprofit Aquatic Adventures of San Diego, a collaborative effort that provides tuition-free educational programs and hosts community events that connect underserved youth to science. Many other organizations and agencies took part or lent support.
A "secret agent" biologist led the participants, ranging in age from very young to over 70, on walks to help them see why wetland and watershed habitats are important and how people can be effective stewards. Immediately after, everyone went to work, putting in 5,700 native plants.
In Playas de Tijuana, a canyon hillside was planted to reduce sediment runoff and improve habitat, a trail with interpretive signs was installed, and more than 10 cubic yards of trash and invasive vegetation were removed. In San Diego, a field of invasive grass was turned into maritime succulent scrub and coastal sage scrub habitat, and a "conservation connectivity garden" was created to highlight and further propagate rare plant species.
Volunteers worked together, separated by the border fence, but sometimes side by side. Though many of them could not see each other, the event was broadcast from each side of the border to the other and could be viewed on a video screen, mounted 40 feet high and visible from both sides of the fence.
Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon of the City of Tijuana and Imperial Beach's Councilmember Patricia McCoy crossed the border, he to present a "Star Adventurer" award to a San Diego youth, she to award an "Estrella Aventurero" to a Tijuana youth. At day's end, students from Tijuana formed a long chain and danced through the work site to music in English and Spanish. Then everyone joined at the fence for photos and to share experiences.
Shara Fisler is the executive director of Aquatic Adventures.