The Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve has been offering residents and non-residents of Gardena an opportunity to experience and explore nature since 1998, after the city received a $1.2 million grant in federal and state funds to turn what was essentially a swamp into the Wetland Preserve. Located behind Arthur Johnson Memorial Park between Normandie and Vermont avenues, the 13.6-acre preserve is under the care of the city of Gardena and the members of the Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve, the latter who have cared of the property since 2006. “The Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve came along in 2006 and the city decided to make the Friends land stewards and in making us land stewards, that makes the Friends responsible for taking care of the property,” said Cheral Sherman, vice president of the Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve. As caretakers of the preserve, Sherman said that the current schedule of volunteer workdays and nature walks will continue throughout 2022. Wetland workdays occur on the third Saturday of each month and involve volunteers. Sherman said that they never know how many volunteers will show up to help, but they can use all the help they can get. Last month, only one person showed up to volunteer her services to help clean up the wetlands. In addition to volunteer days, the Wetlands Preserve hosts strolls on every fourth Saturday and every second Sunday. The Saturday and Sunday strolls are self-guided tours in which patrons are given a brochure with a map of 15 signposts throughout the preserve. The brochure directs patrons to stop at each signpost and read what is in that area of the Willow Wetland. One of the signposts shows where the water drains under Vermont Avenue on its way to the Dominguez Channel. Tourists and community members walk the entire preserve of 13.6 acres. Sherman said they average about 20 to 35 people on the strolls. Seniors from the city walking club get in on the self-guided tours every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. Usually around 15 seniors from the Gardena Senior Center go on this walk. Currently, the Wetlands Preserve is in the planning stages of building a new website, but Sherman would like to see other improvements as well. “We’d love to build a nature
center or have a nature center built but that would require us to get a grant and do fundraising and we’d have to get city approval for that,” she said. Danielle Marquez of the City of Gardena said that the Gardena Wetlands has a couple of other things in the planning stages for 2022. “We are doing an earth day event at the Willows with the city this year,” Marquez said. “We are fine-tuning details, but we are going to do a planting project where we use newspaper for biodegradable containers.” The Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve is the last remnant of the former Dominguez Slough, a marsh and forest that once covered as much as 400 acres. When open, the public are welcome to walk through the Preserve or take one of the self-guided tours. All of these regularly scheduled events are offered free of charge, though donations are welcome. The goal of the self-guided tours and special events held by the Preserve is to educate the public about the importance of wetland preserves to the environment and to show people what still needs to be done to maintain the remnants of nature. The Gardena Willow Wetlands Preserve is located at 1202 W. 170th Street in Gardena. However, a reservation is required in order to visit. To make a reservation or to sign up to volunteer at the preserve, please visit: www.cityofgardena. org/events.