The unshakeable activists who've been fighting the Malibu Lagoon "restoration" project since it was proposed 20 years ago have always been passionate.
But have some waxed a bit overzealous? LA Observed reported this morning the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors "notified county officials on Monday that a beach maintenance worker in Malibu was threatened that he would be 'wearing a toe tag' if he worked on the Malibu Lagoon restoration project." And department spokeswoman Carol Baker tells LA Weekly that indeed...
... a county maintenance worker who was cleaning Trancas Beach around 5:30 a.m. on Friday was approached by two men who appeared to be in their 20s.
"They waved him down and asked him if he was going to work on the lagoon project," says Baker. "And he really had no context for that, so he said he didn't know. And they said, 'If you are, you will be wearing a toe tag.'"
According to Baker, the worker -- whose "job is to basically rake and groom the beach every day" -- wasn't aware of the protests scheduled for later that day.
(As it would happen, state officials postponed last Friday's construction kickoff until
this week, so as not to interrupt a Malibu city councilman's weekend surfing contest -- conveniently forgetting to notify the public until the morning of. But that's another story.)
According to Baker: "Later, when [the worker] became aware of the protests, he then realized, 'Oh, that's why they said that to me.'"
So he told his supervisor, who passed the word onto the Lost Hills sheriff's station. Mostly, says Baker, her department just didn't want protesters to blame beach workers for something they have no control over. "I think there can be some confusion between what's happening at the lagoon and what our maintenance workers do every day," she says.
But some lagoon preservationists see this as an attempt by their enemies to paint the opposition in a bad light.
A commenter named M. Stanley (whom activist Marcia Hanscom calls a "seasoned activist" at the lagoon) writes on Malibu Patch:
"There's a pattern of propaganda being thrown here, don't fall for it. They have a vested interest in changing public perception to save their jobs and reputation, I desire to stop government waste consumed by such projects and recognize a pattern of behavior."
Although the alleged toe-tag threat "would not be something we advocate at all," says Hanscom, she's suspicious that county officials are using it to overshadow gaping flaws in the lagoon restoration project.
Environmental workers are currently scrambling to relocate lizards, fish and other endangered lagoon critters before pre-construction wraps up and the bulldozers roar in. And despite the schedule change, Hanscom says a handful of protesters are still staking out at the lagoon 24/7, including about a dozen who showed up this morning.
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The latest cause taken up by local surfer Andy Lyon, a centerpiece of the movement, has to do with the sandbagged dam that he says officials plan to use as a pedestrian bridge at the site. Just yesterday, Lyon grilled California State Parks official Suzanne Goode on the subject:
"The project looks like a circus right now," says Hanscom. Which is probably the one thing we can all agree on.