When Mark Abramson was a younger intern on the environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay within the mid-Nineties, he was given the notably boring task of reviewing annual stormwater allow experiences for all 88 cities in Los Angeles County and monitoring their compliance.
He went concerning the process with attribute gusto, and was so fascinated and fired up by what he discovered that he “didn’t depart for an additional dozen years,” laughed Mark Gold, who, as Heal the Bay’s former president, had assigned the chore.
Abramson went on to develop into a towering determine on the earth of Los Angeles water — somebody who would depart a long-lasting mark on its seashores, streams, wetlands and preserves, and whose legacy can be loved by Angelenos for many years to come back. Abramson died instantly on Sept. 15 of a suspected coronary heart assault, family and friends say. He had simply turned 56.
A gruff, burly, colourful character with a booming voice and an simple presence (a 2001 Los Angeles Occasions profile described him as “Mr. Clear with a goatee and an angle”), Abramson was instrumental within the cleanup and preservation of the Malibu Creek watershed, a 110-square-mile space that runs from the southeast fringe of Ventura County to Malibu Lagoon, discharging at Surfrider Seashore.
He additionally blew the whistle on polluters, secured the way forward for Ahmanson Ranch, eliminated fish obstacles in Ballona Creek and Leo Carrillo State Park, and helped form stormwater insurance policies and clear water requirements — all whereas wrangling volunteers and mentoring scores of younger individuals. In 2014, Abramson acquired the Environmental Legislation Institute’s Nationwide Wetland Award for his conservation and restoration efforts in Los Angeles County.
“The most effective environmentalists are individuals who take insults to the surroundings personally, and that was Mark,” Gold mentioned. “Right here’s a man who grew up in Agoura Hills and knew each inch of the Malibu Creek watershed, and he protected it prefer it was one in all his personal kids.”
Certainly, not lengthy after Abramson got here to Heal the Bay, he got down to map and monitor the complete watershed. He based a volunteer group often called the Stream Staff, which patrolled the complete space on foot and picked up invaluable knowledge about its water high quality and biodiversity.
His work was instrumental in restoring Malibu Lagoon, one of many final coastal wetlands within the county, which was affected by low oxygen ranges, poor water high quality and tainted sediment linked to city runoff and discharges from the close by Tapia sewage remedy plant. The hassle additionally helped clear up Surfrider Seashore, which for years had been one in all L.A.’s most polluted seashores resulting from surges from the lagoon.
“What he did at Malibu Lagoon — I imply, that simply reveals you his perseverance,” Gold mentioned. “As a result of he was a cussed S.O.B., and thank God for the watershed that he was.”
Within the early 2000s, Abramson helped halt a controversial proposal to develop Ahmanson Ranch, a 3,000-acre property at Malibu Creek’s headwaters, into a personal neighborhood with two golf programs.
Abramson mapped the world and located it to be a uncommon and important habitat for red-legged frogs and different endangered species. Its proprietor on the time, Washington Mutual Financial institution, offered the expanse to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for $150 million, preserving it as a parkland and ending a tense 17-year battle.
“He was so good and hardworking and decided, and he was visionary as a result of he selected tasks that had been actually laborious to do, and he did them properly to point out us all what was attainable,” mentioned Shelley Luce, an impartial water high quality guide who beforehand held roles at Heal the Bay, the Sierra Membership and the California Coastal Fee.
Luce mentioned Abramson collected essential knowledge on benthic macroinvertebrates — tiny creatures that dwell on the underside of the creek — that aided in growing laws for discharges from the sewage remedy plant and bettering stormwater administration practices within the area.
Abramson additionally gathered a gaggle of volunteers to take away previous dams from Ballona Creek, which had been appearing as obstacles to endangered steelhead trout and different fish. Stone by stone, the workforce dismantled the dams and restored the banks, instantly bettering the well being of the stream, Luce mentioned.
He then went a step additional, working with the Parks Division to take away three automobile crossings that had been blocking streamflow contained in the Arroyo Sequit, situated simply north of Malibu on the base of Leo Carrillo State Park. He secured a big grant, employed an engineer and designed bridges to switch the crossings, making a free-flowing creek and re-vegetating the location.
“These had been actually massive, they usually simply wouldn’t have occurred if Mark hadn’t determined that this was essential,” Luce mentioned.
Make no mistake, nonetheless: Abramson was not your typical tree-hugger. He liked to hunt and fish, telling The Occasions in 2001 that he needed to “catch a steelhead within the creek earlier than I die.”
“Mark was, and not using a query, one of many sweetest, most beneficiant males I ever met, and on the similar time, his exterior was like 120-grit sandpaper,” mentioned Tom Ford, chief government of the Bay Basis. “He form of dared you to like him.”
He was so captivated with his work that he as soon as scheduled a gathering about marine restoration on Christmas, Ford mentioned.
Later, whereas working with Ford on the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Abramson got down to higher establish and perceive sources of air pollution getting into waterways within the county. When rain was within the forecast, he would collect a workforce to go out and gather runoff samples, even when it meant ready for an excellent soaking at 3 a.m.
The samples he collected helped establish polluters by tracing micro organism, metals and industrial supplies on to their supply, Ford mentioned, and “actually moved the needle” towards improved regulatory processes for water high quality and stormwater seize within the county.
However whereas many will bear in mind Abramson for “the expanses of the landscapes he helped preserve,” Ford mentioned, what usually will get missed is his position as a mentor.
“He should have straight supported a whole lot of younger professionals of their careers — aiding them of their educational analysis, or [answering] skilled questions as to the place this all match into context locally of coastal Los Angeles,” he mentioned. “He was stellar at it.”
His household mentioned that sounded just like the Mark they knew.
“In a technique, he may very well be actually gruff and hard-assed, however when you made that reference to him, it was endlessly,” mentioned his brother, Jeff Abramson. “You discuss to his pals, to all of the those who labored with him even 30 years in the past, they usually all say the identical factor. They liked his humorousness, and simply liked him.”
His niece, Alicia Abramson, 23, recalled asking her uncle for assist together with her fifth-grade science mission when she was 10 years previous.
In typical style, “he dragged me into a type of creeks and we had been attempting to find mudsnails for hours,” she recalled. “However we gained the science truthful.”
Born in Santa Monica and raised in Agoura, Abramson studied accounting at Pepperdine College and acquired a grasp’s diploma in panorama structure from Cal Poly Pomona. He later served as director of watershed packages on the Santa Monica Baykeeper and labored with the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Basis, amongst different roles.
A number of years in the past, he based City Ecoscapes, an environmental panorama firm, and was actively concerned in efforts to construct a wildlife crossing for mountain lions and different animals over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.
“He needed what was there when he was a child to be there for the subsequent technology and the technology after that,” mentioned Margot Carlson, his spouse of 27 years.
When his years-long Malibu Lagoon restoration mission was lastly full, he arrange an underwater digital camera to see what would occur, Carlson recalled. The primary day, the footage caught solely a single tiny shrimp.
However only one week later, “there have been colleges of fish, crab all over the place, and tons of little shrimpies,” she mentioned — indicators of a wholesome ecosphere.
“There’s nowhere you possibly can actually go on this space with out seeing his imprint,” Carlson mentioned. “There’s no seashore you possibly can go to, there’s no place in these mountains that he hasn’t touched.”
Abramson is survived by his spouse, Margot; his brother, Jeff; his niece and nephews, Alicia, Max and Erik; cousin Kevin Brown and aunt Kate Brown.