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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Local activists play key role in protecting our coast

by Mark Massara, Sierra Club Director of Coastal Programs

painting, "Past Ventana" by Bill Fravel
painting, "Past Ventana" by Bill Fravel

When people picture California's coast, they imagine the grandeur of Big Sur, surfing in Santa Cruz, and the majesty of our Monterey pines. Although we still face many threats to the Central Coast, we have managed to preserve much of our natural heritage. Coastal water quality was rated high in a recent study, we have record amounts of coastal open space, and we have largely escaped rows of high-priced resorts and luxury condos built inches away from the shoreline.

Coastal activists have made all these victories possible. Thirty years ago Ventana Chapter members played a key role in working to pass Proposition 20 which became the Coastal Act and created the California Coastal Commission to uphold this new law.

Our coastline has benefited endlessly. The Coastal Commission prohibited construction of a surf-damaging 1100-foot seawall at Pleasure Point. The Commission protected the delicate dunes in Sand City from a huge hotel and enabled the creation of Monterey's picturesque bikeway. These and countless other decisions by the Commission over the years have helped protect our coastal legacy for future generations.

Photo - Kenneth Adelmand and
Sand City's fragile dunes remain free of development due to the Coastal Commission's important role in protecting our coast.
Photo - Kenneth Adelmand and

As you can imagine, the special interests eager to develop our coast are not fans of the Coastal Commission. They have tried a number of ways to undermine its authority. Last year they supported a lawsuit challenging the Commission's constitutionality. They have also lobbied public officials and begun a major public relations push aimed at discrediting this essential agency.

While the lawsuit only served to strengthen and further legitimize the Commission's authority, the other well-funded efforts are harder to combat.

How to help

• If you haven't joined already, join Great Coastal Places, Sierra Club's network of 5,000 coastal advocates from Eureka to San Diego. On the web, visit www.sierraclub/ca/coasts. Participants receive alerts about key coastal issues.

• Attend a Coastal Commission Hearing. Hearings take place in a different coastal city every month. You can see the schedule and learn what issues will be discussed by visiting

• When specific issues arise, contact your public officials and let them know that the Coastal Commission and our coast must be protected. Big coastal protection decisions are ahead, including the fate of many thousands of threatened Monterey pines. Don't worry about writing the perfect letter, just write. You'd be amazed by what a strong impact you can make.

We all can do something. Remember, we only have one coast. Join the Great Coastal Places campaign to receive timely information on coastal issues. Let's make sure that our children and our children's children will be able to enjoy our great coastal places.

Visit Sierra Club's Great Coastal Places website at

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