The Indian Beach neighborhood has been my home for my entire life, and as to be expected the beach there has long lost its charm somewhere between the trash, cigarette butts, other unmentionable human items, runoff draining into the ocean, repeated school and camp trips there, and attempts to “picnic.”
The human impact on this beach is impossible to ignore. From this man-made runoff “creek” which has always fascinated me with both its immense attraction to socks, trash, and hoards of tiny crabs:
—to the better intentioned barricades used to slow down the erosion in this popular sunset watching/plainsight illegal activities spot:
Of all the areas around town I’ve been to, my neighborhood is one of the “hilliest” I can think of, which is most obvious in the slight “cliff” that’s formed by the beach, a steep incline perpetuated by the neighborhood development on one side and the ocean on the other. Much of the construction you can now see in this beach is actually fairly recent—happening over just the past few years—and a great amount of it was just building these barricades to prevent the ground from collapsing even further. Of course, the erosion just moves elsewhere along our little coastline, but most of the mansions along it have walls and rocks protecting their precious green grass lawns, which is just another unnatural addition to the bay environment and I fret to think about what kind of runoff comes from just maintaining those lawns year round. Not to mention the pollution from all the construction that’s been done in this area and the already “trapped” nature of the water in a bay area.
On a brighter note (and despite all my cynicism), it’s quite amazing looking around this small patch of beach and realizing how stubbornly nature carries on. The sea grapes are full and vibrantly growing and many of the other plants are latching onto the barricades and will perhaps help slow erosion even further; the exploration during our class trip there revealed a bounty of algae and the leave-behinds of plenty of critters; and just as wonderfully, there are still a multitude of fish, herons, pelicans, ospreys, dolphins, crabs, and so on that still call this area their home and aren’t about to be driven out by humans.
Do I intend on visiting this beach regularly again? No, probably not (and especially not on a hot day, and good luck getting me to touch that water) but I think parts of it are improving from what they once were in my memory, and maybe eventually people will remember there is a clearly marked garbage can right by the sidewalk.
*On an additional note: Selby Gallery is currently doing a show of the work of Adriane Colburn and Christina Seely, both artists whose work is dealing the human impact on the the environment—in terms of both pollution and the way in which land is treated. It’s worth checking out if you want to see how artists deal with this subject and if you like photography and really cool installation work.