By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
For 12 years, a group of volunteers led by Ted Godshalk worked hard at making Paradise Creek Educational Park a reality for National City.
“This is an example of the work that community members can create,” said Godshalk, who is the executive director of the non-profit Paradise Creek Educational Park, Inc. “It’s proof that they can come together to plan, to design, and to raise the money to create a park like Paradise Creek.”
Paradise Creek is a beautiful wetland habitat that provides an ecosystem for birds, carbs, horn snails, and many wetland plants. In the past, it had been a forgotten area that was full of trash, rugs, and old tires.
On Tuesday, April 17, the City of National City will officially cut the ribbon for the park. Also, on Saturday, April 21, Godshalk and other volunteers will host the dedication ceremony at 9 a.m.
This week children and volunteers were busy completing the final details, such as planting more trees.
The changes include the restoration of the salt marsh and the new boardwalk and amphitheater.
“It’s a chance for us to restore a place that’s been neglected and polluted,” Godshalk said. “We’re bringing it back to our youth. It is a habitat for wildlife, it is a recreational location. There’s nothing similar in National City.”
The closest location similar to Paradise Creek is the Chula Vista Nature Center, he said.
Some of the major obstacles Paradise Creek has had to overcome were lack of funding and removal of toxins in the soil.
But thanks to the help of several elected officials, Godshalk and his team of volunteers were able to improve the state of the creek, which has run through National City for thousands of years.
Once a week, several classes from adjacent Kimball Elementary School visit Paradise Creek. They study the flora and fauna of the wetlands, and create science projects. Also, on the last Saturday of each month, students and community members join together for a fun Creek Day of planting and caring for the native plants, weeding the area around the creek and picking up trash.
“When families visit Paradise Creek, parents can learn a lot about wetlands from what their children have learned during class time,” Godshalk said.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour. The signs are in three languages: English, Spanish, and Tagalog.
“It’s been a long time coming that we have a dedicated park on the westside, but we still have a long way to go,” said National City Mayor Ron Morrison.
Councilmember Luis Natividad, one of the most active elected officials in the city that promoted the improvements at Paradise Creek, said that more people need to know about the park.
“There has to be an outreach so that not just kids from the Westside can visit it,” Natividad said. “A lot of people don’t know its there. It’s important for whole city to learn about the different species of animals and plants there. We must also create an awareness that all the junk, such as car oil, that goes down the drain ends up in that creek and in the ocean.”
For Godshalk, who teaches science at neighboring Kimball Elementary School, the improvements made to the creek will make National City a better community.
“Everyone in National City could benefit from this, as well as anyone in the greater region as well. Children can learn about wetland habitats. City leaders can learn how to create a better community,” Godshalk said.
“It’s important because it’s in the middle of the city. We don’t have enough open park space in our city, and most cities don’t. It’s a way to get away from noise and traffic, to learn how to take care of bigger natural places such as Alaska, to learn how to take care of our planet.”
Paradise Creek Educational Park is located at 1815 Hoover Ave., in National City. For more information, visit www.paradisecreek.org.
Children, you can help Paradise Creek!
Here’s how you can help:
• Keep an eye on the creek and storm drains in your neighborhood. Report Storm drain pollution to the City of National City at (619) 336-4389.
• Participate in Creek Days at Paradise Creek. It’s always on the last Saturday of the month at 18 St. and Hoover Ave.
• Join the “Egret Club” and “Birds and Bikes” if you are a student. High school students can join the “Teen Apprenticeship Program.”