Hidden in plain sight: Thousands of people drive by the Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve each day without seeing what's right next to the road. This is a tree-filled, shady retreat that's great for a quiet walk. I never go in there without seeing some of the inhabitants: little birds, big birds, butterflies, lizards-- even coyotes! In fact, I never know just what I'll see, as every time I go there, something has changed. Whether it's a tree turning color with the seasons, or a new plant that catches my eye, this place is always a wonder.
The Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve is a small part of Gardena, CA that has truly kept its nature in its natural environment for over a century. There is a trail that surrounds the wetland preserve and it's a good one to two mile walk. I have volunteered since 2017 with members of all ages from 5 to 85. They have gardening tools including wheelbarrows and a dumpster provided to collect all the green waste. We clean the East Side of the area by removing trash, non-native plants, and anything that gets in the way of walking through the trail. The environment changes monthly and seasonally. It's always satisfying to see the Before & After pictures of our work and leave the area with a much nicer appearance.
The Willows organization has overcome tremendous obstacles to become established. And they continue to provide a "wildness" area in a very urban setting - all with limited funds. They have a dedicated board and volunteers whose efforts have had an incredible effect on the preserve.
Gardena Willows is a unique natural habitat with many native plants. I can’t rave enough about this place. I genuinely love it. I volunteered here for quite a while and everything I did was not a waste of time. I learned so many things from here and met so many people who I am still close with. I had the ability to make an impact on the environment and I totally did. Every single time when I was finished with my work, it made me feel proud that I was actually a part of something like this. Seeing the preserve shine in its own way was amazing. Mrs. Sheryl was also a great teacher, she was always there to guide my group and I. I would totally recommend this place to everyone who wants to volunteer.
I have lived in the City of Gardena, California, for many years , and the Willows Wetlands Preserve (i. e. - "The Swamp") entered my consciousness as an element of "Forbidden Fruit."
As a child, I was tempted to go there for a number of reasons.
It was wild, or it was as wild a location as the City of Gardena had to offer. With its large trees, its vines, its undeveloped trails, and its general greenness, it beckoned for boys to explore its recesses.
It contained wildlife, or as much wildlife as the City of Gardena had to offer. There were crayfish, ducks, opossums, raccoons , and if one was especially blessed, one found snakes!
It had water in the form of ponds, pools, and trickling in-flows which conjured up visions of Huckleberry Finn and Jim, cruising down the Mississippi River - or - at least it had as much of that as the City of Gardena had to offer.
Alas! All perfection comes at a price because my parents, and other parents, threatened their offspring within an inch of their lives if they should go to "The Swamp" and revel in such sublime pleasures! This parental mindset came from their certain knowledge that "Hobos" resided there and that "Bad Things" would transpire for anyone who frequented "that" location. Unfortunately, far too many of our parents were intransigent on this issue.
Hence, our youthful experiences were stunted, and we had to wait until we had arrived at the point in life where we could cast parental caution to the wind - and do wild things like ride motorcycles and go to "The Swamp" with a cavalier, "Devil take the hindmost" attitude.
Because I was more retarded than my peers, this time came much later, and it was inspired by a brief mention in The Gardena Valley News that volunteers were needed for a variety of tasks in "The Willows Wetlands Preserve." The first question was "What happened to the old Gardena Swamp?" - but this seemed like a perfect opportunity to see what was actually in there.
One work party developed into many work parties, and the forklore of "The Swamp" was both proven and disproven. Yep! All the critters were there and even a few more! Yep! It was still, mostly wild, and it had water, but the "City" had developed trails, bridges, and overlooks. They even had benches to sit on! Nope! There were no sordid, "Hobo Jungles," save for an errant intruder, from time to time, who hung out only until asked to vacate by the Gardena Constabulary.
So, life is still good in the old "Gardena Swamp," even though it has become somewhat "trendy" as the "Gardena Willows Wetlands Preserve," and it is still as much wilderness as the City of Gardena has to offer. My best guess tells me that any new visitors will not be disappointed, so long as they do not go in expecting refinement, sophistication, and convenience. "Do" expect 21st Century wilderness, and this is what one will find during "The Monthly Strolls" - and - "Do" expect plenty of healthy activity, and this is what one will experience during the "Once Per Month Work Day."
Thankfully, this location is no longer the "Forbidden Fruit" of years gone by, but it might be a good idea to take a look for yourself!
The Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve Inc (FoGWWP) maintains an urban wetland within the city of Gardena, CA. I volunteer to clean trash from the wetlands and to help cull the non-native invasive plants that try to overwhelm the native plants. It is so satisfying to work on the park and see the difference we can make each month. The FoGWWP provides tools, protective wear and the trash bins for the waste products and we regularly fill them with trash and vegetation. We are always welcomed and appreciate by the FoGWWP representatives and they always make sure we are educated and well instructed. I am so glad to be able to contribute to their cause as a volunteer.
The Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve is absolutely beautiful. When I heard about the preserve I needed to see it with my own two eyes. Wow! From the majestic trees to the meandering trails and natural stream of water that runs through the preserve, I absolutely loved it
The Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve are dedicated to protecting one of the few remaining natural areas in the South Bay. We are a small, local organization that provides for the upkeep of the preserve, makes any improvements, and and educates the public about the importance of this natural area and the plants and animals that can be found there. We welcome any and all support for our community institution.