Where Will All the Nature Go?

By Land Wilson


There is a neighborhood in North San Rafael, California, built around a tidal canal. In one area, the canal circles a delightful open-space park that is full of wildlife: Santa Margarita Island. This picturesque setting is home to three varieties of majestic oaks and eye-catching rock formations. The marshy banks with native reeds and pickle weed plants probably look close to what Miwoks saw centuries ago. Over the years, I’ve spotted countless birds, like Black-Crowned Night Herons, American Coots, Mallards, Marsh Hawks and nesting White Tailed Kites.

In the 1970’s, developers were keen on turning the island into a tennis club with a restaurant and marina development. Debate raged because neighbors wanted to preserve it as public open space. At one point, in a heated county planning meeting, when it looked like the developers were going to get their way, a child stood up and asked, “But where will all the nature go?” The room fell silent. No one knew how to answer.


Nobody knows what went through the minds of the developers, but most anyone with a conscience would agree that there is something wrong with telling a child that nature will just have to find another home. Nature can’t always find another home. Sometimes it is gone for good. What message do we give our youth when our actions imply that if we want something and nature has to go, that’s just what is done?

Many believed that the words of this child turned the tide of this debate. The island and its surrounding tidal marshes were spared, unlike much of the Bay Area’s other marshlands, filled in mostly for short-term private gain over the past two centuries. Thankfully, people today recognize that bay marshes are one of the most biologically productive habitats known on earth. 

The list of why we should revere our tidal marshes is long: 
    • They filter pollutants and sediments from upland runoff 
    • They provide habitat for fish, invertebrates, reptiles, birds, mammals and oxygen producing plants  
    • They provide hatchery and nursery areas for the fish, shellfish and waterfowl that humans eat
    • They provide vital stopover points for migrating birds
    • They aid in flood control to protect our homes and businesses
    • They prevent erosion of our waterfront property
    • They provide beautiful vistas for our pleasure
    Have you had a similar situation where you live? Please share how your community helped saved wildlife habitat from development.

      12 thoughts on “Where Will All the Nature Go?

      1. At LPP, we honor and respect the innocence and wisdom of children. Thank you for raising our awareness about the importance of tidal marshes and reminding us that we need to listen to our children.

      2. Great post! When I was a kid I used to play in areas like this. I love being outside. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were me and my friends out on our bikes exploring places and following rivers and creeks and railroads.

      3. I look at the pictures and am amazed that your winter looks like my summer on the high plains. I imagine it’s absolutely stunning on the Island during the green months.

      4. Beautiful photos of a magnificent area. I love that this child stood and spoke up – and spoke the truth for all of us. So glad s/he was heard. It’s so important that there are those working to save other important areas that once lost will always be lost to all the future children.

      5. Thank you for this positive feedback. Last night at the dinner table there was a conversation about how in England during my mother-in-law’s childhood, a common expression was that children should be seen and not heard. Thankfully, respect for children has come a long way. Their grasp of obvious things like caring for earth is important to us because I think we adults often overlook the obvious. They really are the key to a good future. ~Land

      6. Awesome post!! There is NO replacement for nature!! Thank goodness there are so many people willing to take a stand to save what’s so beautiful about our world!

      7. Thanks for this. The destruction of marshes and wetlands has led to so many devastating consequences (e.g., much of the damage inflicted by Katrina). Stories like this are really heartening!

      8. This is such a beautiful story, thank you! One of my favorite things about children is their honesty and ability to take such complex ideas and simplify them in a way we are not able to!

      9. Thank you for a great story. I know the area that you are talking about and it is truly beautiful. Another preserved open space, in what I call “my backyard” is the campus at Indian Valley. Hikers will find the same wild life and beauty as what you are describing. We are very blessed to live and appreciate this untouched area.

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