Groundbreaking takes place for massive Colorado Lagoon transformation via connection to Marine Stadium

The Colorado Lagoon is one of Long Beach's most successful park comeback stories, going from polluted mess to popular oasis—and its grandeur is about to become even greater as construction crews officially broke ground on one of the city's largest civic projects.

by Brian Addison

The City of Long Beach and contracted construction crews have officially broke ground on one of Long Beach's largest civic projects: Connecting the southern end of the Colorado Lagoon to the northern tip of Marine Stadium in the Alamitos Bay by cutting through Marina Vista Park.

Neighbors might have already noticed some headway construction in the area: In order to assure the project's timeline is held to standard while complying with the Coastal Commission's regulations during bird nesting season, portion of trees were removed last year in order to assure construction to begin this year. And yes, the city has assured that all the trees removed will be replaced by mature native trees.

A topographical view of how the current Colorado Lagoon [upper left] will connect to Marine Stadium. Courtesy of the City of Long Beach.
And it should also be noted: The massive canal excavation is not to be confused with the $500K lagoon playground project, completed along Colorado Street's westerly portion in the lagoon and part of Measure A funds earlier this year.

The $32.5M canal project is the last major phase of what has been a two-decade overhaul of the park: In 2001, the Friends of Colorado Lagoon coalesced to address the massive pollution within its water and decay surrounding the lagoon itself.

The $26.3M project is one of the largest green projects in Long Beach and part of a two-decade restoration and reformation of one of the city's most beloved parks.
What was once a beaming jewel of the city, the lagoon was and remains one of the few remaining coastal salt marshes on the West Coast—and with a rich history which includes being home to the 1932 U.S. Olympic trials, resident concerns were valid.

Once part of the 2,400-acre Los Cerritos wetlands, it had once enjoyed open connection to the tidal flows in nearby Alamitos Bay. In the 1960s, with an increase in urbanization, an underground culvert was created but prevented full tide drainage and following the many storm drains which dump into the lagoon, led to its pollution.

By the late 1990s, the once-flourishing recreation destination and wildlife habitat was instead filled with what Heal the Bay continually dubbed a "Beach Bummer," continually making lists of the state's most polluted water bodies, with elevated levels of harmful chemicals and bacteria.

New pedestrian paths will be created, with this entryway on Colorado Street. Rendering courtesy of the City of Long Beach.

Once advocates were able to connect with the city following years of back-and-forth about how to go about restoring a lagoon, it took nearly three years to do a full evaluation.

And then it took another five years for the next phase that proved to be the real transformation: A four-year sediment removal that carefully required not killing or too harshly disrupting the existing ecosystem followed by a year-long process in restoring the shallow water habitat and shoreline that was altered by the sediment removal process.
The eventual view of the extension from Elliot Street looking north from Marine Stadium. Courtesy of the City of Long Beach.
Now, the lagoon has returned to its jewel status in Long Beach's park system, where there is a constant presence—summer or winter, spring or autumn—of park-goers, animals, and greenery.

So what, exactly, will connecting the lagoon to the Alamitos Bay do?

The main point is that it will restore full tidal circulation to the lagoon, which will provide continually better quality water for both visitors and the wildlife that lives there while also showing off what nature originally intended with the green space.

But perhaps on a more socio-environmental level, it will eventually be a tangible example of how the rightful concerns of citizens can create a cohesive relationship with their government to do something that benefits both our social life and our environmental one.

City officials expect the construction process to last two years with an additional five-month monitoring process.

Editor's note: This article originally said the cost was $26.3M, as stated by the city earlier this year; it is $32.5M.