COOAST & Coast Walk
Bill Kortum, the founder of the SCCA, co-founded COOAST in 1968 to advocate for public access to the tidelands in Sea Ranch. That same year, Measure B was put on the county ballot by COOAST, but was ultimately defeated. Under Measure B, all new coastal construction would have been required to give public beach access under the plan. California voters finally approved Proposition 20, which established the California Coastal Commission in 1972 to monitor coastal development and provide public access, after years of campaigning. All coastal developments in California are now regulated by the Coastal Commission. By 1973, the Coastal Commission has begun to deny permits, working dilligently to reduce the amount of new construction and keeping the Bodega coasts natural beauty intact. The number of new houses planned in 1974 were reduced from 1500 to 750. COOAST disbanded in 1993 with robust protections for the California coastline codified in state law.
Bill and Lucy Kortum, long-time coastal advocates, launched Coastwalk in 1983. They proposed a 55-mile walk along the Sonoma County coast to raise awareness of public access and coastal preservation issues, as well as to publicize the fact that the Coastal Act of 1976 called for a continuous coastal trail that would connect cities and towns to natural resources and coastal parks throughout the state. Tom and Vivian McFarling, local environmental activists, prepared and led the first “Coastwalk.” It was so well received that it was repeated and eventually became an annual event in Sonoma County, with further expansion into neighboring counties.
These activists discovered their impact: “”Coastwalks,”” multi-day educational hiking and camping adventures led by volunteers, shifted walkers’ attitudes from thinking of the beach as a place to read or play volleyball for the day to appreciating the coastline as a critical habitat uniquely affected by tidal rhythms and time. Peter Douglas, a long time friend a colleague of Bill, articulated the state of the coasts very well when he said that “The coast is never saved, it’s always being saved. Our work, your work, is a labor of love that is never finished.”