Exploring the LAX Dunes

The wildlife preserve sits just north of El Segundo yet remains unseen to many.

El Segundo community member Darlene Gaston gives voice to what so many of us are thinking in her essay “Big Little Blue,” published last year in El Segundo Writes: A Collection of Writing from the Community. “Shouldn’t I have seen a blue butterfly by now?” she asks herself, while driving the length of Pershing one afternoon and seeing for the umpteenth time the bright-blue sign for the El Segundo Blue Butterfly Habitat Restoration Area positioned at the thoroughfare’s southern end. “Is that sign left over from a bygone era?” she wonders. “Perhaps that butterfly is a mythological creature.”

Her curiosity growing with time, Darlene eventually finds herself exploring the restricted-access LAX Dunes on foot one Saturday morning, months later, having signed up along with other citizen-volunteers to help remove invasive plant species from the area. The clean-up event is a monthly effort coordinated by Friends of the LAX Dunes (FOLD), The Bay Foundation, Loyola Marymount University’s Coastal Research Institute, and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and Darlene is there to help, to learn about the ecology of the dunes, and to finally catch a glimpse of the storied El Segundo Blue. Two hours into her work pulling black mustard and wild oats from the sand, she finally gets her chance…