Named after former Huntington Beach Mayor, Donald D. Shipley, the nature center was opened in 1974. Dr. Shipley’s vision was to have a place which reflected what California was 100 years ago.
After years of neglect, the Nature Center became overrun with invasive, exotic plant species that crowded out more desirable native plants on which local native wildlife depends. Non-native tamarisk and giant reeds depleted the ground water. Dead Monterey pines and giant reeds, were a fire risk and needed to be removed. The Blackbird Pond suffered from lack of oxygen, especially during the summer months.
The restoration process created several early California habitats, so that children would be able to see what Huntington Beach may have been like before intense development began, wiping out native habitats.
With donations and grants and both paid and volunteer labor, the Friends of Shipley Nature Center and the City of Huntington Beach spearheaded a complete restoration. Included in the restoration was the removal of invasive, non-native plants, upgrade of the trail system, installed a drip irrigation system to enhance water conservation, and planted 50,000 California native plants.
Water feature restoration included the creation of a freshwater stream to provide pond circulation and aeration. The stream will provide a powerful lure for migrating and resident birds. Restoration will greatly enhance habitat value for wildlife and will provide improved opportunities for environmental education.
Today the Center includes 4,000 feet of well-maintained trails that meander through several habitats, including oak woodlands, Torrey pines, meadows, and Blackbird Pond, a natural freshwater wetland with mature willows and sycamores. Within the Nature Center is a 1,500 sq. ft. Interpretive Building with exhibits on local wildlife and ecology.