Mark Abramson, who helped shape L.A. environment, dies at 56

When Mark Abramson was a young intern at the environmental nonprofit Mend the Bay in the mid-1990s, he was given the notably unexciting assignment of reviewing yearly stormwater permit stories for all 88 metropolitan areas in Los Angeles County and monitoring their compliance.

He went about the task with characteristic gusto, and was so fascinated and fired up by what he observed that he “didn’t depart for one more dozen several years,” laughed Mark Gold, who, as Heal the Bay’s former president, had assigned the chore.

Abramson went on to develop into a towering figure in the environment of Los Angeles drinking water — someone who would go away a lasting mark on its seashores, streams, wetlands and preserves, and whose legacy will be appreciated by Angelenos for decades to appear. Abramson died quickly on Sept. 15 of a suspected coronary heart assault, good friends and family members say. He experienced just turned 56.

A gruff, burly, colorful character with a booming voice and an plain presence (a 2001 Los Angeles Times profile explained him as “Mr. Clean with a goatee and an attitude”), Abramson was instrumental in the cleanup and preservation of the Malibu Creek watershed, a 110-sq.-mile space that runs from the southeast edge of Ventura County to Malibu Lagoon, discharging at Surfrider Seashore.

Mark Abramson and another man stand knee-deep in a Malibu creek.

Mark Abramson, left, and volunteer Joshua Hocieniec stand in a smaller pool in Las Virgenes Creek in August 2000. The pair had been measuring the pool and recording other qualities prior to plotting its place with the aid of GPS.

(George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Periods)

He also blew the whistle on polluters, secured the foreseeable future of Ahmanson Ranch, eliminated fish obstacles in Ballona Creek and Leo Carrillo State Park, and aided shape stormwater guidelines and cleanse water requirements — all though wrangling volunteers and mentoring scores of youthful men and women. In 2014, Abramson gained the Environmental Legislation Institute’s Nationwide Wetland Award for his conservation and restoration attempts in Los Angeles County.

“The very best environmentalists are men and women who take insults to the ecosystem individually, and that was Mark,” Gold explained. “Here’s a man who grew up in Agoura Hills and knew each and every inch of the Malibu Creek watershed, and he guarded it like it was one of his possess children.”

In truth, not extensive soon after Abramson arrived to Mend the Bay, he established out to map and observe the entire watershed. He founded a volunteer group known as the Stream Workforce, which patrolled the total location on foot and gathered a must have data about its drinking water quality and biodiversity.

His get the job done was instrumental in restoring Malibu Lagoon, just one of the previous coastal wetlands in the county, which was suffering from very low oxygen levels, very poor h2o high quality and tainted sediment joined to urban runoff and discharges from the close by Tapia sewage cure plant. The energy also aided clear up Surfrider Seaside, which for several years had been a single of L.A.’s most polluted beaches due to surges from the lagoon.

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“What he did at Malibu Lagoon — I necessarily mean, that just demonstrates you his perseverance,” Gold reported. “Because he was a stubborn S.O.B., and thank God for the watershed that he was.”

An aerial view of Ahmanson Ranch.

An aerial look at of Ahmanson Ranch with homes in Los Angeles County, ending at the Ventura County line, in March 2002.

(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Situations)

In the early 2000s, Abramson aided halt a controversial proposal to produce Ahmanson Ranch, a 3,000-acre residence at Malibu Creek’s headwaters, into a personal community with two golf programs.

Abramson mapped the space and uncovered it to be a scarce and critical habitat for crimson-legged frogs and other endangered species. Its owner at the time, Washington Mutual Financial institution, sold the expanse to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for $150 million, preserving it as a parkland and ending a tense 17-yr struggle.

“He was so intelligent and hardworking and established, and he was visionary simply because he selected assignments that ended up really tough to do, and he did them nicely to demonstrate us all what was doable,” mentioned Shelley Luce, an unbiased drinking water excellent marketing consultant who previously held roles at Recover the Bay, the Sierra Club and the California Coastal Fee.

Luce said Abramson gathered essential info on benthic macroinvertebrates — very small creatures that are living on the base of the creek — that aided in producing rules for discharges from the sewage remedy plant and enhancing stormwater administration procedures in the location.

Abramson also collected a group of volunteers to eliminate outdated dams from Ballona Creek, which had been acting as limitations to endangered steelhead trout and other fish. Stone by stone, the group dismantled the dams and restored the banks, promptly improving the health and fitness of the stream, Luce reported.

He then went a phase even further, performing with the Parks Office to clear away a few auto crossings that had been blocking streamflow inside of the Arroyo Sequit, positioned just north of Malibu at the base of Leo Carrillo State Park. He secured a significant grant, employed an engineer and designed bridges to exchange the crossings, making a absolutely free-flowing creek and re-vegetating the website.

“Those were genuinely big, and they just would not have transpired if Mark hadn’t determined that this was crucial,” Luce claimed.

Make no mistake, nonetheless: Abramson was not your regular tree-hugger. He cherished to hunt and fish, telling The Periods in 2001 that he preferred to “catch a steelhead in the creek before I die.”

Mark Abramson kneels beside Malibu Creek.

Mark Abramson, Stream Crew supervisor with Heal the Bay, checks Malibu Creek for mudsnails in June 2006.

(Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Moments)

“Mark was, without the need of a issue, 1 of the sweetest, most generous guys I at any time achieved, and at the very same time, his exterior was like 120-grit sandpaper,” said Tom Ford, main executive of the Bay Basis. “He kind of dared you to like him.”

He was so passionate about his perform that he the moment scheduled a assembly about maritime restoration on Xmas, Ford explained.

Later on, while performing with Ford at the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Abramson set out to superior discover and comprehend sources of air pollution entering waterways in the county. When rain was in the forecast, he would collect a crew to head out and obtain runoff samples, even if it intended waiting for a fantastic soaking at 3 a.m.

The samples he gathered served identify polluters by tracing bacteria, metals and industrial materials right to their resource, Ford stated, and “really moved the needle” toward enhanced regulatory processes for drinking water high-quality and stormwater capture in the county.

But although lots of will remember Abramson for “the expanses of the landscapes he assisted preserve,” Ford explained, what usually will get overlooked is his purpose as a mentor.

“He have to have straight supported hundreds of younger gurus in their occupations — aiding them in their educational research, or [answering] qualified issues as to in which this all match into context in the local community of coastal Los Angeles,” he reported. “He was stellar at it.”

His family members mentioned that sounded like the Mark they knew.

“In 1 way, he could be really gruff and challenging-assed, but if you built that relationship with him, it was endlessly,” said his brother, Jeff Abramson. “You converse to his good friends, to all the folks that worked with him even 30 several years in the past, and they all say the exact same detail. They liked his sense of humor, and just loved him.”

His niece, Alicia Abramson, 23, recalled inquiring her uncle for aid with her fifth-quality science undertaking when she was 10 several years old.

In regular trend, “he dragged me into a single of those creeks and we were searching for mudsnails for hours,” she recalled. “But we received the science truthful.”

Born in Santa Monica and elevated in Agoura, Abramson examined accounting at Pepperdine College and received a master’s diploma in landscape architecture from Cal Poly Pomona. He later served as director of watershed courses at the Santa Monica Baykeeper and worked with the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, among the other roles.

A couple of yrs back, he started Urban Ecoscapes, an environmental landscape enterprise, and was actively associated in efforts to establish a wildlife crossing for mountain lions and other animals above the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.

“He wanted what was there when he was a kid to be there for the future technology and the era after that,” mentioned Margot Carlson, his spouse of 27 years.

When his a long time-extended Malibu Lagoon restoration project was eventually entire, he established up an underwater digicam to see what would come about, Carlson recalled. The 1st day, the footage caught only a solitary tiny shrimp.

But just one particular week later, “there have been colleges of fish, crab everywhere you go, and tons of small shrimpies,” she claimed — signals of a nutritious ecosphere.

“There’s nowhere you can definitely go in this area with no viewing his imprint,” Carlson stated. “There’s no beach you can go to, there’s no location in these mountains that he has not touched.”

Abramson is survived by his wife, Margot his brother, Jeff his niece and nephews, Alicia, Max and Erik cousin Kevin Brown and aunt Kate Brown.