Encroaching on nature

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As a garden designer in the Southern California area who has practiced for over 35 years and as a native California resident who resided in Malibu for 18 years until 2001, I felt compelled to write this letter. Last night I saw the KCET piece on the David Evans project above Serra Retreat with his intention to transform the hills above Malibu and its precious fragment of native vegetation into a most sensitive Post Ranch-like development. I certainly appreciate the power of Mr. Evans and his influence and certainly get the ambition of Ms. Burton, the garden designer, to transform the hillside and its geology into a group of houses and retaining walls with solar power and recycled rock formations.

It took me a long time to realize that I did not know better about what to do with nature than to just leave it alone. It took me years of visiting the Amazon rainforest to realize that the best thing I could do to contribute to the overall protection of the global environment was to be amazed by it and just leave what was there undisturbed. That goes for Escondido Canyon where I lived with the sycamores and Topanga with its smell of native sage and Artemisia.

About 12 years ago, I planted some native Torrey Pines across from Michael Landon Park. Whenever I drive down the highway and remember gentling the grade and moving the dirt, I recall a moment of how it feels to restore a hill created by wind and time. I cannot image how much of my soul I would have to sell to champion an idea to compromise a part of Malibu topography which still survives. Probably by the time this project is complete, nature will be desperate to go anywhere.

Jane Marshall