How HBWC Began

The effort to preserve the Huntington Wetlands in southeast Huntington Beach began with the formation of the Friends of the Huntington Wetlands in December 1984. It was a group comprised initially of southeast Huntington Beach residents who witnessed the rapid conversion of farmland to residential homes in the 1970s. They were concerned the degraded historical wetlands, the last remaining acres of open space along PCH between the Santa Ana River and Beach Boulevard, would be developed. Saltwater marshes along the entire coast of California were disappearing at an alarming rate.

Magnolia Marsh project roll-out event
Magnolia Marsh project roll-out event June 30, 2009. Pictured from left to right are Smith, board member Kristen Bender, project manager Gary Gorman, NOAA Chief Administrator Jane Lubchenko, board members Ann McCarthy and Jim Robins.

The group's first newsletter, The Pickleweed, was produced and distributed in February 1985. The group's membership expanded to include citizens from across the city. Members fought for several years to convince the city to apply protective zoning to the wetlands that would preclude any kind of development. Because of the group's efforts in raising public awareness of the wetlands' potential ecological value, and because the wetlands were protected by the 1976 California Coastal Act, the city ultimately adopted in 1996 permanent protective zoning that was acceptable to the California Coastal Commission.

In November 1985, with encouragement from the California Coastal Conservancy and guidance from the Trust for Public Lands, the Friends of Huntington Wetlands incorporated as a non-profit corporation to become the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy. As a non-profit corporation, HBWC works with local, state, and federal agencies and property owners to acquire, restore, and manage the coastal wetlands in the Orange County coastal zone.