Roma Armbrust and Jean Harris
Ormond Beach Observers
Ventura and Oxnard, California

When Jean Harris and Roma Armbrust call a meeting to discuss preservation of Ormond Beach, environmentalists, property owners, and officials from all branches of government flock to the table. These two activists have spent a cumulative total of 36 years championing their cause—preservation of Ormond Beach, an undeveloped remnant of a rare salt marsh located in Oxnard, California.

Ms. Armbrust and Ms. Harris are retired teachers who became conservationists after joining the League of Women Voters. Both have spent countless hours educating the community about the biological value of Ormond’s resources, speaking out against ill-conceived development proposals, and increasing community involvement in the planning process for the Ormond Beach area. In 1983, they formed the Ormond Beach Observers, which unified the voice of a number of diverse organizations interested in protecting the wetlands. When the city of Oxnard ultimately formed the Ormond Beach Task Force, these two grandmothers served enthusiastically and patiently. Their tenacity and open-mindedness kept key participants involved and brought the group to final consensus. Earlier this year, the California Coastal Conservancy validated the critical importance of preserving the wetlands by agreeing to acquire a sizable portion for restoration and permanent preservation. As Jean Harris would say, their efforts continue to be “a work in progress” because the city has yet to approve a final development plan for the Ormond Beach area. Undoubtedly, both women will continue to persevere to secure permanent protection for the invaluable Ormond wetlands.

— Kim Uhlich and John Buse, Environmental Defense Centers, Ventura, California