Stoss School Tour of Ballona Discovery Park

On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, CURes Environmental Fellow Lisa Fimiani and Dr. Edith Read, Manager of Ballona Discovery Park and Freshwater Marsh, took a group of Harvard Graduate School of Design students on a tour of Ballona Discovery Park and a walk above the Ballona Freshwater Marsh, looking down over the Ballona Wetlands.  

Chris Reed, Founder and Design Director, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture and Co-Director, Master of Landscape Architecture in Urban Design Program, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), and Nina-Marie Lister, visiting Professor of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University GSD are co-teaching an advanced graduate design studio on urban wildlife habitat and connectivity, with LA as their general site. They are looking through the lenses of various species needs, and as they may intersect with other social and urban agendas. Students will be developing proposals for landscape infrastructure, new or revitalized habitat, etc., and they will be doing so against the backdrop of biodiversity loss, climate change, and rapid urbanization. 

Ballona is just that story. The tour of the Ballona Wetlands helped to give the students a firsthand experience of an example of an LA site they are potentially going to use in their class studies.  

The tour started at Ballona Discovery Park where Lisa and Edith did a brief talking/walking tour through the Park. Lisa then led them from the Park to Cabora Drive, a service maintenance road above the Ballona Freshwater Marsh. 

The students looked down on the 20 year old reconstructed Freshwater Marsh and out over the entire Ballona Wetlands which could be seen from that view point. The students saw native plants that have been on the Bluffs for hundreds of years, encroachment of non-native plants, and the delicate balance between urban foot traffic and wild areas.   

The tour didn’t end there, despite the rain. After lunch at a local restaurant, the students came up to the CURes Research Annex Conference Room on the LMU Campus to watch videos on Ballona and the creation of the community of Playa Vista, and the 35 year journey Lisa Fimiani has had first volunteering for the Friends, becoming a member, a Docent, a Board Member, and 7 years as ED.   

These videos are worth watching for those who want to dig deeper into the Ballona Story: 

Ballona Freshwater Marsh Restoration  

Friends of Ballona Wetlands Tribute to Gray Davis  

Friends of Ballona Wetlands Tribute to Ruth Lansford  

Fourteen Minute Ballona Wetlands Video 

Playa Vista – A Four Decade Overnight Success 

Restoring Southern California’s Wetlands 

The Ballona Wetlands:  Freshwater Marsh Story

We look forward to having Chris and Nina-Marie back with their students any time, to explore Ballona!