Written by Tracy Drake, Park Services Manager, City of Torrance

The Madrona Marsh Preserve is thought to be the last remaining freshwater marsh in Los Angeles County. It is one of the city of Torrance’s finest achievements in the context

Madrona Marsh Preserve serves as inspiration for many local artists of all ages, who find their muse in the abundant foliage and wildlife.

of natural resource conservation.
The marsh is a remnant natural vernal wetland complex that includes ancient dunes, coastal prairie, vernal pools and seasonal wetlands sustained by historic drainage from the San Gabriel Mountains. Between 10 and 20 acres of the preserve is a vernal/seasonal wetland that fills in the winter and spring and is completely dry by late summer or early fall. The drier portions form a coastal prairie habitat—the largest in the state—with vernal pools that fill with rainwater and dry completely in about one week to three months.

This seasonal regime produces a unique ecosystem. Its significance is evidenced by the diversity of life that can be seen any time of the year. Within the approximately 43 acres, more than 250 species of plants, more than 65 families of insects, two amphibians, five reptiles and about 269 species of birds have used the preserve mostly during spring and fall migration. Also, at least three mammal species reside on the preserve yearly.

Since oil was discovered at Madrona in the early 1920’s, the city of Torrance has been in a state of constant development. When builders wanted to develop this parcel of land during the early 1970’s, a local citizens’ group petitioned and lobbied against development, stating that the community needed to retain at least one natural area as a historical reminder of this distinctive ecosystem.

In 1971, city officials agreed to set aside 35 acres as a nature preserve, and left an adjoining large strip of land just east of the preserve as an agricultural field. In 1982, the preserve was again considered for development. Planners envisioned a series of office buildings and town homes.

The same citizens, known as the Friends of Madrona Marsh, rallied for Madrona to be permanantly set aside as a nature preserve. After careful negotiations, the city decided to allow the development, but limited to the eastern agricultural fields.

The Madrona Marsh has a Nature Center in which programs and exhibits are designed to increase public awareness about the history of the preserve and promote environmental science and preservation. There are monthly programs, such as bird walks, nature hikes for children and adults, art classes, microscope water labs, and Junior and Senior Naturalist programs.

Additionally, there are special events such as art shows, night hikes, astronomy events, guided tours for groups such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, church groups and school classes. By giving tours, visitors are introduced to the practice of restoration on the preserve and their awareness of the importance and need for volunteer community service is heightened. The Nature Center offers volunteer positions, internships and research opportunities to adults, as well as students in high school and college. •

The Madrona Marsh Nature Center and Preserve is open Tuesday though Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information please call 310-782-3989 or visit friendsofthemadronamarsh.com.