A little beachfront controversy was stirred this past summer when environmental writer Jenny Price co-developed an app designed to help beach lovers access miles of public coastline.
Tucked in between the homes of some of the entertainment industry elite are public access foot paths leading right to the sand and ocean. And it isn’t uncommon for the homeowners to go all out to disguise the public access points. It’s a bit understandable that they are less than thrilled to deal with the noise and inconvenience of the public on what would otherwise be a pristine landscape reserved for a limited few.
The app is designed to help the public determine which access decoys to ignore.
You can feel free to ignore the “no parking” or “private beach” signs. Security guards can attempt to shoo you away…but you can shoo them right back.
No California beach is entirely private. Between wet sand and the water is public space.
I’m quite sure that if I lived in one of those gorgeous beachfront properties I wouldn’t be a fan of the California Coastal Commission. Since the early 1970’s the state has protected and preserved public access to our coastlines and beaches guaranteeing they belong to everyone, not just those fortunate enough to own homes right on the sand.
During economic hard times there are calls from wealthy developers pressuring the state to let go of some of its well-protected and beautiful land. Understanding land trusts is beyond my ability to successfully decode, but I can quote numbers. Currently there are 115 California land trusts protecting 1,243,737 acres, which in partnership with national organizations have successfully protected 2,326,737 acres.
On a recent trip through Huntington Beach I asked my personal driver if he’d make a quick veer off Pacific Coast Highway into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It looked like the perfect spot to stop and de-stressify.
Humans aren’t the only ones to enjoy the coast. The state has protected some prime coastal land for birds and animals, too.
Bolsa Chica means “little bag” in Spanish, a name associated with the former Mexican land grant Rancho La Bolsa Chica, but the history of the area goes back to the earliest of native California Indians. Cog stones dating back 8,000 years were found in the area and are now housed in local museums.
In the 1940’s the U.S. Military constructed two bunkers at Bolsa Chica to defend the coastline. Remnants remain, but are closed off to the public.
And Huntington Beach is oil-rich, too. I’ve watched the pumpjacks, sometimes called nodding donkeys or rocking horses, since I was a child, in the days when there was little interest in disguising the environmentally challenging industry.
Currently the oil companies cooperate with the state in providing environmentally friendly habitats for coastal birds and animals. The 300 acre sanctuary is home to one of the best birding locations in southern California. The conservancy lists 186 regularly occurring species and a supplemental list of 116 species less frequently seen, meaning often less than once a year.
The nesting areas and many parts of the wetlands are not accessible to the general public, so it’s best to bring binoculars. But it’s a quiet and lovely location, and I’m certain many people drive by every day completely unaware of this beautiful spot.
An additional 56 acres of uplands still remain in private ownership and the California Coastal Commission is involved in ongoing hearings to monitor considered development. It’s an interesting dance between encouraging development with potential economic growth and the protection of wide open spaces.
You know where I land on that one. Fingers crossed!
- California Passes Coastal Protection Bill (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- Adventure Out Here – Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (hobbitsadventure.wordpress.com)