Protecting the Cradle of Life

. . . Helping to Keep the Wetlands Alive!

A project of the Ballona Institute

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MARCIA HANSCOM, Founder, Director

As founder and executive director of the Ballona Institute since 2005, Marcia has become -- quite literally -- the voice for Nature on the Los Angeles Coast. Ballona Institute supports programs for nature education, community-engaged ecological restoration and nature-inspired artistic expression ~ including a Nature Academy, Museum/Archives, Natural History Research Library and a place where informative, creative nature tours are organized.

Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, with its population of more than 200 bird species and numerous species of  amphibians, reptiles, mammals and wildflowers, was preserved by citizen action in 2003/2004. They all continue living in and relying on Ballona's 640 acres of seasonal ponds, wet meadows, coastal strand, sand dunes, saltmarsh, prairie grasslands and nontidal marshes. This intricately woven mosaic of habitats is here today thanks in large part to the organizing efforts of Marcia.

Between 1995 and 2003, faced with the threat of development of most of the 1,087 acres of floodplain marsh and grasslands on the LA coast, and the community’s resolve to keep out destructive development, Marcia inspired and empowered community members to begin speaking out at public meetings and hearings. She organized highly visible protests, raised funds, and worked effectively through governmental channels to convince decision-makers to help fund the public acquisition of these lands.  Seeking the financial involvement of increasing numbers of community residents, including Don Henley, of the Eagles, Hanscom spread information, testified at hearings, and corralled media interest in saving these seaside natural areas that -- miraculously had still managed to escape the ravages of urban sprawl. 

The result was that less than half of the acreage was built on - all of the wild, open spaces north of Ballona Creek and all of the land west of Lincoln Blvd. were preserved.   In addition to this experience, as an activist, Marcia has lent her knowledge of community organization and activism to innumerable community groups seeking help in preventing corporate or government-based destruction of wetlands and wild areas. 

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ROY VAN DE HOEK, Certified State Biologist
and President of the Ballona Institute Board

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek is a biologist who is considered the greater Ballona Wetlands ecosystem's most knowledgeable naturalist.

Van de Hoek has studied marina biology, ornithology, hydrology, geography, botany, archaeology, mammalogy and wetlands science. He has earned two degrees in biology and geography from California State University, Northridge (with minors in geology and anthropology) and also conducted extensive post-graduate personal study and research.  He has more than 20 years of experience in government, having worked for the United States Forest Service (Department of Agriculture), the Bureau of Land Management (U.S. Department of Interior) and the County of Los Angeles, where he is a supervisor in the Department of Parks & Recreation.

Van de Hoek is an independent scientist who has supported efforts of many grassroots organizations, including Bolsa Chica Land Trust, Save Oxnard Dunes, Wetlands Action Network, CLEAN (Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network} and Sierra Club, where he is was chair of the Sierra Club Ballona Wetlands Task Force when the Club played a major part in the public acquisition of the Ballona Wetlands.  As a member of the Board of Directors for Access for All, he was an avid advocate for environmentally sensitive public access. He also has hiked the John Muir Trail and scaled Mt. Whitney twice.  A scholar of California natural history, some of Roy's favorite research topics include early Los Angeles botanists and bird observers; women naturalist writers, and California naturalists of the 19th Century.   His story-telling skills, combined with his near-encyclopedic knowledge of ecology, make his natural history tours unique, inspiring and popular ~ with many tour-goers returning for new insights and observations.

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SUSAN SUNTREE, Board of Directors
Ballona Institute
Writer, English Teacher, Performer, and Activist.
Susan Suntree, whose work investigates the dynamics of science, art, and spiritual philosophies as they engage contemporary life,  has presented her award-winning poetry and performances nationally and internationally and has published books of poetry, biography, and creative nonfiction, as well as translations, essays, reviews, and book chapters. She is a native of Southern California, having grown up in Arcadia and spent periods of time in Antelope Valley's high desert area. Her one-woman performance-poem, Origins of Praise, commissioned by and premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York, describes the how the desert landscape and her exposure to Native American cultures deeply influenced her.

Her performance work has also included street theatre featuring puppets and masks and focused on local environmental challenges especially saving and restoring the Ballona Wetlands. Suntree was co-organizer of: Celebrate Ballona! the 5th Anniversary Gala Dinner in 2005 and is a co-author of a book that is in production, titled: Celebrate Ballona!

In her recent book, Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California (University of Nebraska Press 2010), Suntree draws from Western science and indigenous myths and songs to tell the epic story of how Southern California region came into being beginning with the Big Bang/Great Silence. In his forward, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder describes her writing as "a work that sings." Celebrated novelist Carolyn See has praised it as a "glowing monument" and "an absolutely unique work of art."

Jane Anne Jeffries, Board Member
Educator, activist
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JaneAnne is a long-time educator, devoted to providing the next generation with high quality education experiences.   Her relationship with what she often refers to as "La Ballona" runs deep. Her dad and uncle, Dan and Dale Jeffries, built boats. Jeffries BoatWorks was located in Venice, California. There was no marina when they began their boat-building business, so the hoist at the end of the Santa Monica pier launched the life guard boats as well as pleasure craft they built.

Working at The RAND Corporation from 1963-1969, JaneAnne's lunch hours were spent playing volleyball & running on the beach. When her daughters were three and five -- in 1970 -- they moved to Venice. The Venice boardwalk became their highway. Marina del Rey's Fisherman's Village provided a bicycle route to Del Rey Lagoon in Playa del Rey, and she became aware of the attempt to save "La Ballona" from the massive Playa Vista development that threatened to swallow up one of her special places where wild nature remained.

Thanks to documentary film producer Sheila Laffey's videos, JaneAnne was able to involve her third grade students in the successful acquisition of part of La Ballona that would have gone to Playa Vista. The students' Great Egret and Great Blue Heron artwork was published in local papers and sent as part of a notebook package prepared by Ballona Institute founders Marcia Hanscom and Roy van de Hoek so that decision-makers would understand the breadth and depth of desire for protection of these coastal lands. JaneAnne also marched with the giant puppets and greeted documentary host Ed Asner during a showing of Laffey's film, "The Last Stand."  Her students attended a ceremony that celebrated the presentation of La Ballona acreage to the State of California.

Since 1994 JaneAnne has chosen to do all of her affiliated activities in the Wetlands and Prairie Grasslands of La Ballona.


Askance AnnDoneen
Ann Doneen, webmaster, has worked in the media and public affairs for more 30 years in a career that has spanned the print and broadcasting spectrum. She produced investigations for Channel 2 (KNXT, now KCBS) News, was public affairs director at Cal State University, Northridge, was a columnist for TV Guide Magazine, and also directed public affairs at Art Center College of Design and is a winner of the Alfred I. duPont award for television journalism. Additionally, she has been deeply involved in environmental and progressive causes. She divides her time between Malibu and Massachusetts.

Kenneth M. Swope, political consultant
Ken Swope
Kenneth Swope is an independent political consultant who specializes in the creation and production of television, radio, and print advertising for Democratic candidates, environmental groups, unions, and other progressive public sector and public service organizations. He has created campaigns from Maine to California.

Ken developed campaigns for Senators Joe Biden, John Kerry, Tom Harkin, and Patrick Leahy, Mayor Ray Flynn of Boston, George McGovern, Mike Dukakis, Leo McCarthy (CA), the League of Conservation Voters, CalPirg, MassPirg, the NEA, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, AFSME, the Democracy for China Fund, and many others.

Ken created spots for Citizens Energy, the nonprofit company run by former U.S. Rep Joe Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s oldest son. The TV spots run in 17 states each winter, offering free heating oil to low-income families.

He is one of the few writer/producers working in political advertising with a background in commercial advertising. He’s been a writer and creative director at ad agencies in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. His work is known for its powerful emotional content, compelling music, humor, and attention-getting techniques. Ken has won more than 60 local and national awards for creative excellence.