Our rental at Sea Ranch, at the extreme northerly part of Sonoma County, serves two purposes. First, it has allowed us a well deserved rest. Our two story, 4-bedroom rental with hot tub is ideal for chilling out. Second, we have bought ourselves the right to walk all of the Sea Ranch's bluff tops. The general public is barred from 7 miles of this beautiful coast.
In many ways, Sea Ranch was at the center of the fight to insure the public's right to access its beaches. Were coastal-access backers in the late 1960s coal miners, they would have found their canary on the bottom of the cage. Oceanic Properties had purchased a large undeveloped parcel with 10 miles of coastline. Their intent: a 5,200-lot development. Their proposal: in exchange for a 120 acre-park at the mouth of the Gualala River, public access to the rest of the coastline would be denied.
COAAST (Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands) was the local environmental response. Its initial efforts failed, but the word was out. Sensing that their community might be next, 105 local organizations joined together to form the Coastal Alliance, and in 1972 the state- initiative process produced and then passed Proposition 20, the Coastal Protection Act. Public access was now a requirement for future coastal development, and the Coastal Commission was created to enforce that requirement.
The end result at Sea Ranch was a compromise not entirely satisfactory to either side. The public gained 5 vertical-access trails from Highway 1 to the beach and 3 miles of bluff-top trail adjoining Gualala Point Regional Park. In exchange, Sea Ranch was allowed to develop up to 2,500 homes. Seven miles of bluff top, however, still remains off limits to the public.
Coastwalk is the daughter (or son) of COAAST. Formed in 1983 by COAAST members, Coastwalk's mission is to introduce Californians to their own coast by sponsoring week-long walks in each of the 15 coastal counties. Our Coastal Trail Expedition 03 is designed to highlight Coastwalk's 20th anniversary and to help publicize the ongoing need for a continuous trail along our coast.
So here we are and having paid the piper, we will walk those 7 miles tomorrow. Joining us will be two new walkers who will traverse Sonoma County with us. They are Vina Breyfogle, schoolteacher from Penngrove and wife of hiker Jon, and Philip Sadler, an executive with Sony and husband of hiker Ginny. There are still opportunities open for anyone who would like to join us for a time. Contact the Coastwalk office at 1-800-550-6854. (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes, Don Nierlich)
Hikers' photo. front l-r: Jon Breyfogle, Ginny Gregurek, Mel Savage (driver), Jean Kenna, Linda Hanes; rear l-r: Vina Breyfogle, Steve Jones, Diana Savage, Max Stein. [Not present: Janette Heartwood, J Nichols; on the injured list: Helene Baouendi.]