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November 20, 2017

Living Coast - Chula Vista’s Discovery Center

There is evidence of a native hunter gather population in the Sweetwater Marsh area 8000 years ago.  Today the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is a preserve allowing for the water fowl to return.  The Living Coast Discovery Center is located on Gunpowder Point just off the E Street exit from I-5 in Chula Vista, where a free shuttle carries visitors to the Discovery Center.

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The Discovery Center’s official greeter is a sea turtle at the main entrance.
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The animals within all the exhibits are rescue and cannot be released back into the wild.  So even though there is a definite zoo-like appearance, if the display animals were not protected here, they would not be alive today.  I expected a lot of sea life.
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I have just finished reading Camino Island by John Grisham, where the loggerhead turtle binds Mercer as young girl to her grandmother.  I’m not sure if I have seen one before, at least I’ve not made note of one before.  They get big, really big!
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In addition there are educational displays include composting and gardening.
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Although there were other attempts at businesses in the Sweetwater Marsh, the most successful was  Hercules Powder Company, which fermented kelp in 200 large redwood tanks to extract potash and acetone to make gun powder for WWI.  Footings for the tanks can be seen along the trail.
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There's also remnants of the pier where the kelp barges would unload.  From here the kelp was pumped up to the processing plant.
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A different view of Coronado and San Diego can be seen from the tip of Gunpowder Point.
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I was last here about 25 years ago, shortly after it opened.  Back-in-the-day there were few exhibits and less educational opportunities, but there were more trails and easy access to the marsh.  The trails today are wide and well maintained but not very extensive.   Unfortunately the signage along the trails has not held up well, either. 
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The trails are all spurs off a main out-n-back main trail.  Each of the spurs would terminate at a viewpoint with a rest area and a reminder to remain on the trail.
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I returned to the Visitor Center past a water garden, which uses selected plants to help purify the run-off water before it enters San Diego Bay - not sure why it is covered.   The selected plants are grown onsite in the hot house.
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Before getting on the shuttle back to the parking lot I took a side trip through the aviary.  Again I’m told these are all rescue animals.  Still has the zoo feeling of incarcerated animals.
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Despite the lack of an extensive trail system I still logged over 2 miles.  If you decide to go be sure to check groupon for 2-fer, $16 for two.  Or ask for the senior admission, although not advertised it will take 20% off the normal $16 admission price.

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