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Eric Munoz, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s 2012 Volunteer of the Year, will be among those at Discovery Gala 2013 May 18 at the Discovery Center in Carlsbad. Photo by Lillian Cox
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Lagoon volunteer to be honored at gala

CARLSBAD — Eric Munoz, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s 2012 Volunteer of the Year, will be among those at Discovery Gala 2013 beginning at 5:30 p.m., May 18 at the Discovery Center in Carlsbad. 

This year’s theme is Raiders of the Lost Lagoon, Discover our Treasures.

Munoz is a board member and past president of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation. He says his passion for protecting the lagoon began after the destructive seaweed, Caulerpa taxifolia, was found in June 2000 and he realized how close the lagoon came to being closed. He explained that the alga entered the lagoon when someone emptied a home aquarium at Hoover Street.

“We were lucky to find it early, and after five or six years to get rid of it,” he added. “If we had been unsuccessful, it would have resulted in displacing our fisheries, ending fishing in the lagoon and probably stopping boating. If it had traveled into the open ocean it would have become too large to successfully eradicate.”

The lagoon was declared to be completely free of Caulerpa taxifolia on July 12, 2006. The following year Munoz worked with Carlsbad Mayor Buddy Lewis in establishing an annual Lagoon Day to mark the event and raise awareness about the importance of keeping the lagoon pristine.

“Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is a whole new sport to emerge since the time we declared the eradication of Caulerpa taxifolia,” he said. “We have a beautiful resource and there are so many people doing SUP. I always tell them, ‘If you like our lagoon why don’t you join our organization?’”

Actor Christopher Rich, star of the television show, “Reba,” will serve as emcee for the gala which will begin with cocktails from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. and a jazz performance by Vince Cooper. Appetizers will be provided by The Canyons Restaurant, Carlsbad Aquafarm, Carlsbad Chocolate Bar, Carlsbad Edible Arrangements, Flippin Pizza, Kings Fish House, Tommy V’s and Gregorio’s.

Vigilucci’s restaurant will begin serving plate dinners in a large tent at 7 p.m. Beverages will be provided by Vesper Winery, finely crafted beer by Lost Abbey, Ballast Point Brew and Venom Vodka (Snake Bite cocktail).

Guests can expect Indiana Jones to make an appearance during the event, and later climb into a biplane and for a flyby at the Discovery Center. Other events include an opportunity to play Raiders of the Lost Lagoon games, visit a snake pit led by biologist Jordan Ahle and bid on a selection of silent auction treasurers.

“A cigarette girl will be selling raffle tickets to win a grand prize of a sterling silver necklace with a diamond pendant,” said Cindy Goodger, administrative assistant with the Lagoon Foundation. “Other raffle prizes will include a guitar, a garden statue and a gift from Jazzercise.”

A live auction will take place along with game prizes that include scuba diving, hot air ballooning, rock climbing and biplane adventures as well as dinner for eight at the Carlsbad Fire Department that includes a tour.

Guests will dance to music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s performed by Fusion.

The evening’s honored guests include the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, San Diego County Board of Supervisors and North Coast Church for their efforts in raising funds toward the Environmental Stewardship Program, the development of the interior exhibits and the refurbishing of both the outside of the Discovery Center building, as well as Hubbs Trail.

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3, operates the Discovery Center and relies on support of the community through membership and events. Membership is $25. Tickets to Discovery Gala 2013 are $100 for members, and $150 for prospective members and can be purchased by calling (760) 804-1969. The Discovery Center is located at 1580 Cannon Road in Carlsbad on the eastern end of the lagoon. For more information, visit

This year Lagoon Day will take place July 20 with a Tip Top Walk/Run, which will include 2-mile, 5K and 10K segments. To register, visit