Walter Fuller says each morning at his beachfront home is "heaven." A painted sunrise spotlights the blue-white waves. A symphony of birds alight and sing. It's a beauty that's made Ormond Beach, a two-mile stretch in Ventura County, a destination for surfers and fishermen from all over Southern California.
"Every morning, I'm waking up to a different sunrise," Fuller says, of his routine. "Sometimes it's cold, sometime's its raining. But I'm right out in nature, and for me, it's good."
Fuller, now 60, doesn't wake in a palatial villa by the seaside or even a cozy bungalow. From 2008 until last June, he lived in a steel shipping container, a unit crammed with field guides and notebooks that doubled as his office. If the beach looks heavenly today, it's because Fuller has been its guardian angel for nearly two decades. After first seeing the beach in 1996, he couldn't keep away. Each day, he works to transform it from an industrialized, crime-ridden dump into one of the last preserved wetlands on the Southern California coast.
"I knew [Fuller] was a completely volunteer person out here trying to protect the wetlands," says Carmen Ramirez, the vice mayor of Oxnard, the nearby city of 200,000 wedged between two naval facilities. "We didn't have... enough protection for it, and he would come out here and talk to people and try to engage them about birdwatching, about not doing negative things on the beach that would hurt the environment," she says. "More and more, he's become a legend. We count on him."
When the City of Oxnard found out about Fuller's work, they gave him the above-mentioned shipping container to use as an office. Six years later, when they discovered it was also serving as Fuller's home, they approved funds for a residential trailer. Their resolution also came with an official title and three-year contract to be "Steward of Ormond Beach."
Fuller's story is one of a person who has taken the protection of a national treasure into his own hands. And its also a tale of how his neighbors in Oxnard -- as they realized what he was doing -- stepped in to support him. Watch the doc above and read the entire article about Fuller here.
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