Aug 10, 2018

From the Director’s Desk: Finding Inspiration on Morro Bay



From the Director’s Desk is a twice-yearly blog series, written by Executive Director Lexie Bell. Lexie plans and directs the program’s work, and collaborates with the Estuary Program’s many partners to expand our collective success in the watershed. 

Lexie first began working in Morro Bay as a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Her graduate work analyzed the economic impact of visitors’ perceptions of environmental quality in Morro Bay. In addition to her Master’s degree, Lexie graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and Biology. Previously, Lexie worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Education, the Nature Conservancy, and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. A native of Florida, Lexie now lives with her family in Los Osos and enjoys our beautiful Central Coast beaches at every opportunity.

Lexie Bell, Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.
Lexie Bell, Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.

Summertime is often when my mind wanders a bit to the view out of our office window. So many people are visiting from all corners of the globe to experience our unique bay and way of life.

A busy summer day on Morro Bay.
A busy summer day on Morro Bay. Visitors and locals alike enjoy taking in the beautiful views and spending time on the water.

With the usual grumbles from us locals about parking and long waits at our favorite restaurants, we sometimes forget the beauty of sharing this special place with the world. Our home is truly a treasure for all people – a place where freshwater from the land mixes with saltwater from the sea to create natural beauty and a set of wildlife and habitats rare on the California coast.

When I watch families observe sea otters for the first time or learn to paddle a kayak, I am reminded of my first experiences of awe on the bay. I originally moved to this area as a graduate student. My work introduced me to a number of fascinating locals with great knowledge of the bay and I went out for a number of paddles by kayak and canoe.

Coleman beach is a great spot to get your feet wet, or to launch your kayak or paddleboard. When you visit, please keep an eye out for eelgrass. This delicate plant has long, thin, green blades and may be above or below the water depending on the tide. Eelgrass is very important to the health of the estuary and can be damaged easily; walking around eelgrass patches instead of through them helps to keep the plant healthy.

Each one was a great experience, but that feeling of awe hit me on my first evening paddle. Out after the sunset on the bay, we paddled back to Los Osos in almost complete silence, with the moon rising overhead and the water turning from daytime blue to nighttime obsidian, sliding off the paddle like silk. The night was clear, and with the moon illuminating the water, we could easily navigate back to our launch spot without any artificial lights. The world melted away and I was just a human floating on water, a piece of life being shuttled along.

Experiencing sunset and nightfall over Morro Bay can be a magical experience.
Looking out over Morro Bay from White’s Point at nightfall.

That moment is the point when my internal compass shifted from South Florida, my birthplace, to this tucked away point on the globe.

You might not have paddled at night on the bay, but many of us have had that crystal clear moment of oneness with the space we are in on Earth. It may have been a hike to a beautiful vista or a fishing trip in the deep blue or even a stroll through your neighborhood when birds are calling and the leaves are whispering.

A white crowned sparrow stands at the break between open sand and vegetation.
A white crowned sparrow stands at the boundary between open ground and plant cover.

One of the people visiting the bay out our office window will have this moment today. They might look back on today and remember that this bay is within their heart and mind forever.

A lot of our work here at the Estuary Program is focused on science, hard numbers, and data. We deal in parts per million of analytes in water, concentrations of bacteria, and blades of eelgrass. But in the end, we want this bay to remain a beautiful place of light and inspiration, a place to connect with the Earth and each other. We are preserving the opportunity for countless future experiences of awe.

Sweet Springs Nature Preserve is a wonderful place to start bird watching.
Ducks, owls, herons, kingfishers, and many more birds enthrall birders of all ages at Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.

What is your story of awe? When did the compass inside your heart turn just a little? Share your story with us—write to us online. Share a photo or send us a letter. Let’s connect and work together to keep our bay beautiful and inspiring to many future generations.

A sunset paddle left our Education and Outreach Intern, Catie, feeling inspired.
A sunset paddle left our Education and Outreach Intern, Catie, feeling inspired. What is it about our bay that inspires you?

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