Clint Jones, producer of “Otter 501” (from left), Sean James, Sector Superintendent of California State Parks, Katie Pofahl, outreach coordinator for Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Mark Shelley, executive director of Sea Studios Foundation and Mark Silberstein, executive director of Elkhorn Slough Foundation, unveil one of the new signs at Moss Landing State Beach. (Photo by Roseann Hernandez/Register-Pajaronian)
MOSS LANDING — Two years after it was slated for closure, Moss Landing State Beach has received three new interpretive signs to educate visitors on the estuary’s habitat and the Southern sea otters that congregate in large numbers in Moss Landing Harbor and Elkhorn Slough.
Two signs are located off Jetty Road and describe the variety of wildlife in the slough’s mudflat and pickleweed marsh habitats, while the interpretive panel on the Southern sea otters overlooks the Moss Landing Harbor.
The project, which involved the collaboration of multiple agencies, was more than two years in the making, and a ribbon cutting was held by the California State Parks, Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Sea Studios Foundation on Thursday to celebrate the accomplishment.
“A couple years ago the closure list threatened 70 park units and Moss Landing State Beach was one of them,” Mat Fuzie, Monterey District superintendent for California State Parks, told the gathering of agency partners and volunteers. “Well, when you get a threat like that, you know who your friends are.”
As budget priorities have shifted over the years, partnerships have become vital to the survival of state parks, Fuzie explained.
“Back in the ‘90s parks were funded 91 percent from the general fund, now it is 21 percent,” he said. “The remaining 79 percent is made up by partnerships, revenue and creative thinking. We would not be able to do it without our partners.”
“This place is where it’s happening,” said Katie Pofahl, outreach coordinator for the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.
Pofahl, biologist and Wisconsin native, spearheaded the sign project as a way to “give back” to the area after filming a documentary on sea otter rehabilitation at Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing State Beach.
“Saving Otter 501” by Sea Studios Foundation tells the tale of a three-day old abandoned sea otter pup and its rehabilitation at the Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
After three years of working in close proximity to the up to 100 sea otters that socialize, forage and rear their pups in the estuary, the filmmaking team was inspired to protect this threatened species from human disturbances.
To achieve this goal, Sea Studios Foundation collaborated with California State Parks to create a sign that would educate the public about the otters that can be seen from the beach’s bluff.
“State Parks have been really eager to work with partners who have an idea and want to improve the area,” Pofahl said.
To fund the sign Sea Studios Foundation received donations – large and small – from hundreds of fans of Saving Otter 501 and got support from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation.
The Elkhorn Slough Foundation funded the two additional interpretive panels.
Patricia Clark-Gray, regional interpretive specialist for State Parks, Monterey District, said the project was one of “passion, persistence and provocation.”
The film sparked the passion and getting the signs up did take a long time, she said.
“But when people read this sign and learn about the sea otters, they will want to protect them,” she said.
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