I am riding north along the blessed California coastline on an Amtrak train bound for SLO. The bustle is happily out of reach as we whiz by crammed intersections and the afternoon I-5 slog. Open space fills the absence of noise. There is no better way to experience the continuity of the California coastline than on the train. You get to see the glittering line-ups of Church and Trestles; retirees calmly sliding along weekday peelers. You can stare out the window at emerald wetlands and flocks of gulls on the exposed cobbles of an afternoon low tide.
California’s coastal zone governance via the Coastal Commission has largely enabled this opportunity. It is a shame they weren’t around before 1972. I day dream of a Solana Beach without the country’s most armored cliff-line…and a Dana Point with one of the state’s best point breaks. I didn’t get to experience those things and time travel does not exist yet without reconfiguring my anatomic structure so I must accept the baseline that is. Fortunately that includes still a darn nice place to live and surf.
But, that very body that has protected so much, and makes California…California, is under siege. California Coastal Commission Executive Director Charles Lester, a leader who is effectively guiding the state’s response to sea level rise, who has helped pass historic legislation to protect the public’s ability to access the coastline, and who has maintained the credibility of his organization as law for the people, of the people and by the people, is under fire to resign from the world’s strongest coastal planning authority. We don’t really know why…since this happened behind closed doors. But something tells me deep pockets, coastal development interests and a disregard for the accessibility by ALL to our beloved coastline had something to do with it.
It is worrisome, but not hopeless by any means. No one can buy my Seaside Reef or San Elijo Lagoon trails. No one will tell me I can no longer get to my favorite local secret beach nook. No one will tell my future children that either. And that is because Californians care. And the power of the many voices that will be heard in Morro Bay next week will overcome any tainted smear of a leader that has led the mission that his organization is mandated to do… “protect and enhance California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations.”
They said it not me…now back to my window.
Zachary Plopper, WILDCOAST Conservation Director