Human Snowmen Sweat on the Beach

“Today, we’re ripping out weeds,” Mark, a mountain-of-a-man with weather-beaten skin, said this morning. Mine and my fellow camper’s toes were still thawing out.

Santa Monica Beach State Park, the host of an Alternative Spring Break with the Student Conservation Association is gorgeous, but deceptive. Mine and my group’s first day, Sunday, was warm. I donned a sleeveless shirt and watched fellow campers SWEAT while playing “Speed Ball.” However, as soon as the sun hid behind the last crest of mountains, my toes froze and my breath crystallized. I was a human rendition of a snowman. OK, I am from Arizona, so I exaggerate when I encounter frosty weather, but rest assured, I was not the only camper who couldn’t feel their tush during breakfast — each of us slowly thawed out.

Mark’s personality, booming with the vigor and hope of a restorative project, warmed our toes (credit goes to the good ol’ sun, too) and set fire to our determination. Mark is spearheading a project at Malibu Lagoon State Beach restoring a lagoon/estuary. This plot of land has been home to a dump and baseball fields, as well as a series of bridges and waterways — all of which were disharmonious to fauna and flora, and dangerous (or deadly) for native wildlife.

Our mission was to tackle, gloves and tools in hand, the feisty overgrowth of invasive plants that are non-native to Santa Monica Beach Park. During our visit, the lagoon/estuary was dotted with blue and orange flags that acted as markers of newly planted native buds. For those flags, and for Mark, our mission was invaluable.

Parks representatives gave us basic insight on the intruders we sought to unearth: a type of leafy carnation and the clover. We set to work immediately until lunch — where we enjoyed our sandwiches and fruit ON THE BEACH — and completed our afternoon by DECIMATING the invasive flora surrounding the near lagoon/estuary. By unearthing these weeds we gave native plants such as the beloved California Sunflower an opportunity to thrive and beautify the area.

The experience made us sweat — a haven following our morning frost — but it also ignited our hearts and minds to a mission this Spring Break to provide service that makes a large impact — even if our enemies are mere weeds.

At camp we gorged on popcorn, lentils and rice, rice krispies, and warm drinks. We’re all prepared for the cold tonight. I have three shirts, two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks on. BRING. IT. ON.