Playa Del Rey

Friends of Ballona Wetlands held their 11th annual Moonlight on the Marsh celebration to a sold-out crowd on this month. At the dinner, held at Loyola Marymount University, the Friends honored Dr. Shelley Luce, Executive Director of Environment Now; and Susan Zolla, local businesswoman, philanthropist and owner of the Inn at Playa del Rey.

Luce was Executive Director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and The Bay Foundation at a time when the battle for the Ballona Wetlands was fierce. She presided over often unruly meetings with grace and courage. In addressing the critical need to restore the Ballona Wetlands, Luce said in her acceptance remarks, “I feel we are sisters and brothers here, in the long fight to right the wrongs that have been done to the wetlands, and to our world … The Friends of Ballona Wetlands have set an example of stewardship for all of us.”

Susan Zolla’s Inn at Playa del Rey overlooks the Ballona Wetlands. She is a generous supporter and has made the Ballona Wetlands a prime feature of the Inn, introducing visitors from all over the world to the wonder of wetlands, as well as to the Friends.

“We are very grateful to Susan and her staff at the Inn who promote the beauty of the wetlands by encouraging their guests to enjoy viewing the open space of the last wetland in Los Angeles County right outside their window – a real treat!“ said Lisa Fimiani, Executive Director of the Friends.

The program featured Lucas, age 11, and Theo, age 10, who participated this past summer in Ballona Discovery Nature Camp under the guidance of Friends’ Manager of Environmental Education, Day Scott, describing their experiences in the Wetlands in breathless detail, to the delight of the audience.

In addition to the children, the audience was treated to a visit by Eddie, the Great Horned Owl, who was right at home on the stage, accompanied by his handler, Melissa Loebl, from South Bay Wildlife Rehab, a non-profit devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating wounded wildlife.

The Friends’ mission is to champion the restoration and protection of the Ballona Wetlands, involving and educating the public as advocates and stewards. They restored the dunes at Ballona with the help of over 90,000 volunteers, leading to the return of the endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly, participated in the creation of the freshwater marsh (mandated by their settlement agreement with the landowner), and initiated the change of tide gates to allow much-needed saltwater back into the wetlands where pickleweed provides nesting habitat for another endangered species, the Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. The Friends’ hold regular tours, habitat restoration and cleanup activities as well as educational programs at Ballona, allowing over 9,000 visitors a year to “Explore Ballona!”

For further information on the Wetlands go to, or to find out how you can participate please contact the Friends at (310) 306-5994,

  • Submitted by Lisa Fimiani, Board Member Friends of Ballona Wetlands