One can make their way along the entire California coast finding trails through state, national and local parks, walking the sand or cobbles on beaches, and traipsing sidewalks or going along gingerly at the edge of rural roads and urban highways. In some instances, the way is blocked by private property or government facilities; in others it is blocked by water. In some cases, one must go far inland. But it can be done!
Coastwalk has mapped this route and described it in two volumes: Hiking the California Coastal Trail (Lorentzen and Nichols). A similar route has been laid out by the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) in consultation with local constituencies, the Coastal Commission, State Parks and Coastwalk. Of these routes, about two-thirds is a satisfactory walking trail, which needs only to be signed and celebrated.
But finishing the trail will be a big job. Signage for such a long and complex trail itself is challenging. More challenging will be to get all of the different jurisdictions, cities, counties, parks, etc., working together on deciding on a specific continuous alignment, setting standards, and getting the trail completed. Finding routes through or around the gaps will take time, negotiations, and money for acquisition. Factoring in the need that the trail system will have to accommodate not only walkers, but others using all sorts of non-motorized transportation as well, will mean that it will take great commitment of many persons inside and outside of government before we can say the trail has been completed.
Fortunately, there is a plan and a mandate to complete the trail. A resolution, ACR20, passed by the State legislature in 2000, declared that the CCT is an official state trail. The trail got Federal recognition that year too when responding to Governor Davis’ nomination; the CCT was declared a Millennium Heritage Trail by President Clinton. Most importantly, in 2001, the Senate passed legislation, SB908, that directed the SCC, aided by other State agencies, to determine what was needed to complete the CCT.
To determine how much of the trail is complete, the SCC staff drew information about where the Coastal Trail runs from the Local Coastal Plans of communities along the coast and interviewed public officials in communities, counties, and National Parks as well as knowledgeable individuals and members of Coastwalk. They also considered the maps in the two volumes, “Hiking the California Coastal Trail” written by Bob Lorentzen & the first Executive Director of Coastwalk, Richard Nichols. The trail alignment on these maps is based on the routes taken by hikers during years of Coastwalk’s along the California Coastal Trail. From this broad input, SCC staff and the technical services staff of the California Coastal Commission prepared the maps accompanying the SB 908 report. In this process, segments of the trail were graded as adequate (or better) or needs substantial improvement (or worse). These maps were then further reviewed by the Working Group and regionally knowledgeable ad hoc volunteers, and finally field checked by Coastwalk/CCTA volunteers up and down the state.
The “Completing the California Coastal Trail” Report—two years in the making—is available as a download here. This 60-page report, mandated by SB 908 of 2001, sets objectives, lists priorities, provides maps and estimates costs for the completion of the CCT. Coastwalk/CCTA played an important role in the report’s generation with the Conservancy, Coastal Commission and California State Parks.
Creation of a continuous coastal trail was originally proposed as part of visionary legislation passed by California voters and the state legislature in the 1970s that additionally created State agencies to both nurture and protect the fragile and beautiful coastal environment and guarantee public access to the shoreline. That the trail is well underway to completion and that its completion has gained renewed impetus through recent legislation, is most encouraging.