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  • Writer's pictureAnanya Ridenour

Backyard Traveler – When Catastrophe Strikes Your Backyard

I am fortunate that I live in a great place, a wonderful city that has lots to offer. In particular, I enjoy hanging out at the beach and walking the trails at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (check out my video on Bolsa Chica). Also, this past summer, we even had a bonfire on the beach to celebrate my daughter’s 11th birthday. Feeling connected to the ocean and wetlands makes me feel a part of this area, makes me feel even more pleased to live here.

However, this past weekend, the very areas that make me feel connected to the city were threatened. On Sunday, October 3rd, 2021, I became aware of the tragic situation of an oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, CA (where I live) that occurred the day before. Approximately, 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from an offshore pipeline heading to an oil platform about 4.5 miles off the coast. Due to the oil spill, multiple beaches have been closed, sensitive wildlife habitats are in danger, and the city’s economy has suffered.

A couple days after hearing the news, I am still reeling from what happened. My thoughts are jumbled and not quite sure what to think of this devastation. Hearing about tragic news is always a difficult thing to hear but when it is in your own backyard, it is even more difficult. It is home and it is threatened.

I am still trying to process everything that happened and what I can do to help. I think that is one of the things that is difficult for me, not quite sure what to do. Not sure there is anything I can do. I want to help but know that is not my place, I’m not trained to do so. I have, however, donated to local organizations that are distributing funds to those assisting in relief efforts and signed up to volunteer for a major beach cleanup once it is safe to do so. I am trying to do my part even though I need to be patient but don’t want to.

Even though I go to the beach and Bolsa Chica quite a bit, I feel like I should have gone more often. I have only been to Talbert Marsh, which has been impacted by the oil spill, a couple of times and now wish that I had taken the time to visit more frequently. I feel guilty that I did not enjoy these areas more. Is that normal to feel this way?

I look at a painting in my office of sanderlings on the beach and I wonder how the birds are doing. One of my favorite parts of the beach is watching them play in the surf. They always bring a smile to my face, why I have a painting of them. They remind me of the little things in life that make you smile. Yet, I am worried about them and hoping that they find a way to survive this tragedy.

This is what this really is – a tragedy. An unfortunate circumstance with dire consequences. Something to think about and reflect on. But out of tragedy, there is always something that emerges, hope. Hope comes in the form of frontline workers, volunteers, and the community coming together to assist with whatever efforts they can. While this incident may be a catastrophe, I am looking towards the future and whatever hope may bring.

To donate to relief efforts, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy created a specific fund in which all of the funds raised will be donated to the organizations deployed in response to this oil spill and assisting affected wildlife. Click here to donate:

For information on how you can volunteer or help out, the Surfrider Foundation created a page designated for this purpose:

To stay up to date on news of the oil spill from Unified Command (comprised of the US Coast Guard, CA Department of Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response and Beta Offshore/Amplify Energy), click here:

Cover photo from LA Times article on 10/3/2021:

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