Visit White Point Nature Reserve-A Diamond
In the Rough near San Pedro, CABy C. MacDonald
San Pedro, Calif.--Learn about the
fascinating Gabrieleno/Tongva Native
Americans and their use of the natural
vegetation at the Palos Verdes
Peninsula's exciting 102-acre White
Point Nature Preserve, overlooking the
sparkling Pacific Ocean along Paseo del
Mar, near Point Fermin. See map
The land, also a former military and
Nike missile site, is owned by the City
of Los Angeles and managed by the Palos
Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, whose
volunteers and naturalists have planted
native scrub and grasses, installed
public trails, developed a fine Nature
Education Center and created wonderful
words and photo signage about the
habitat and Tongva (which means "people
of the earth").
Jessy Melowicz (left) and Roxanne
Roberts, naturalists at White Point
Nature Preserve stand in front of a
mural inside the center
You'll learn about and see the actual
plants that treated ailments from
headaches to infections at the Tongva
Garden of the West. Mugwort eased pain;
Mule Fat served as an eye wash;
Buckwheat leaves treated headaches and
stomach aches, and the seeds from the
California Poppy treated toothaches and
open sores. Naturalists say that nearly
one-forth of our modern medicines are
derived from plants used by native
peoples for thousands of years.
At the Garden of the North, you'll see
the Elderberry ("tree of music") that
can be made into flutes and whistles;
Cattails used for decoration on the
face, chest and back, and Purple Sage
burned for sweet-smelling smoke.
Visiting the Garden of the East will
show you how the Native Americans got
fruit from Cactus; grain from Acorns,
and Lemonadeberry, which made a
delicious and refreshing drink.
The Garden of the South features
California Milkweed, used to make nets;
Horsetail Branches that can be turned
into sandpaper for polishing wood, and
Stinging Nettle, important in
basket-making. Baskets also were traded
for much needed supplies with others.
The Tongvans used the area as a seasonal
camp and were excellent fishermen, who
got abalone and fished from both plank
boats and reed rafts.
They have been around the Palos Verdes
Peninsula for a long time, even
reportedly rowing out in their plank
canoes to meet Cabrillo in 1542 (near
what is now San Pedro).
Roxanne Roberts, a naturalist at the
preserve, said the peninsula later was
part of the first land grant in
California to Juan Jose Dominguez in
1784. Roman Sepulveda obtained the
rancho parcel that became White Point.
The origin of the name "White Point"
varies by legend. Roberts said it may
have come from an English sailor (named
"White") who lived there in the early
19th Century; from the white quartz on
the cliff sides or from something else.
The area has had a fascinating history.
In 1897, Japanese fishermen began
harvesting abalone. In 1917, Royal Palms
Resort and Spa took advantage of the
hydrothermal springs in the cove. The
posh hotel had a bathhouse, saltwater
swimming pools and even slot machines.
In 1941, the US Military took over White
Point for coastal defense. Two 16- inch
gun placements, capable of firing 2,700
pound shells with a range of 28 miles,
were built. You can still see the
massive bunkers today.
In 1954, when the Cold War heated up, a
Nike Missile facility was constructed
here. You can walk right on top of the
launching pad site. It was deactivated
20 years later. The Air Force deeded the
land to the City of Los Angeles in the
1970s. In 2000, an agreement was reached
by the city and conservancy for the
habitat restoration and site management.
In 2010, the White Point Nature
Education Center was completed.
Jessy Melowicz, a naturalist at the
Education Center, which was converted
from a missile assembly building, says
the preserve is a place for exercise
(hiking trails--one 1.1 miles of easy
walking; another 1.2 miles of moderate
walking), learning (there are exhibits
on Harvests & Heritage, The Dominguez
Legacy and more), bird watching
(California gnatcatcher, Bushtit, House
finch, White-capped sparrow, Spotted
towhee, Red-tailed Hawk and others) and
relaxing (leave the stress of urban life
behind). Some folks mediate there.
Others gaze from the hills at the
beautiful Pacific Ocean and Catalina
Preserve hours are daily from dawn to
dusk. The center is open from 10am to
4pm Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. For
more information, contact the
conservancy at 310-541-7613,
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website,
When visiting Huntington Beach or if living there, be sure to drop by the