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Our Timeline

Approximately 1900: Early Chula Vistans built the north and south levee roads, cutting off natural drainage from Sweetwater Marsh.  The north levee road has since been destroyed to improve tidal flow.  The south road is still used today to shuttle visitors to and from the Nature Center.

1916-1920: Hercules Powder Company kelp processing plant built on Gunpowder Point to extract materials used in the production of explosives used in World War I.  Remnants of the buildings can still be seen out on the Nature Center trails.

1920-1930: San Diego Cottonseed Oil Company stored cottonseed oil in the abandoned Hercules buildings until they burned down in 1929.

1930-1980’s: Greenhouses constructed and used to grow crops just east of the marsh and on the 46 acres of the land where the Nature Center is now located.

1978: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes filmed at Sweetwater Marsh.

1980-1986: Area used for illegal trash dumping, degrading the natural plant and animal communities. The first Nature Center volunteers removed tons of trash from the area.

June 1986-June 1987: Chula Vista Nature Center constructed using Coastal Conservancy and Redevelopment Agency funding. (Fun Fact: The Nature Center originally was called the “Chula Vista Nature Interpretive Center.” During the logo redesign, the word “interpretive” didn’t fit, so it was dropped!)

June 30, 1987: The Nature Center facility turned over to the Bayfront Conservancy Trust, a non-profit organization. Special tax assessment on nearby future development originally planned to fund Nature Center; development still under discussion.

July 1, 1987: Doors open at the Chula Vista Nature Center.
July 4, 1987: Dedication Ceremony (thank you, Greg Cox!) and official public opening. Partnership formed with the Chula Vista Elementary School District to have a District teacher assigned to the Nature Center to offer curriculum-based science classes onsite.

1988: Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge established. Nature Center wins Orchid Architectural Award.

1990: The greenhouse constructed and used to cultivate native plants for restoration of the refuge and the native plant exhibit gardens

1991: Burrowing Owl Aviary constructed.

1992: Chula Vista Nature Center accredited by the American Association of Museums.

1996: Avian Support Building constructed.

1997: The Environmental Legacy Fund (ELF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, formed as a fundraising entity for the Nature Center. Construction of Clapper Rail Aviary begun.

1998: Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden constructed by the Huck Finn Summer Academy. Clapper Rail Aviary completed and first pair of Clapper Rails installed.

2000: Raptor Enclosures constructed.

2001: Second pair of Clapper Rails acquired and exhibited. Young of the year released in a Southern California marsh.

2002: Fifteenth year of operation. Nature Center becomes an official department of the City of Chula Vista. BCT reorganized into Chula Vista Nature Board of Trustees and ELF renamed the Friends of the Chula Vista Nature Center.

2003: David A. Wergeland Shark & Ray Experience and Eagle Mesa constructed.

2004: 104 endangered Light-footed Clapper Rails have been released since 2001.

2006: Opening of the Wergeland Family Discovery Center, including Turtle Lagoon

2008: City of Chula Vista budget crisis forces Nature Center to pursue becoming a nonprofit operation.  Over $550,000 raised to begin closing the $1.2 million per year funding gap.

2009: Negotiations for takeover of operations begin between the City of Chula Vista and the Friends of the Chula Vista Nature Center, a 501(c)(3) organization. Nature Center partners with Mueller Elementary School, a charter school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, to offer 7th and 8th grade science classes at the Nature Center

2010: The Nature Center attained independence from the City of Chula Vista to form an autonomous nonprofit organization. Along with their new Board of Directors, the Nature Center began planning for their future with the development of a five-year Business Plan, and the introduction of the first ever Day Camp and Overnight Adventure Programs.

2012: The Chula Vista Nature Center changes its name to the Living Coast Discovery Center.