Steve Lopez, LOS ANGELES TIMES
All week long, the ultimate destination was the Sonoma County coast.That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy knocking around Tolowa Dunes, the Smith River and the Lost Coast last week.
Even though I’m a native Californian, I’d done very little exploring up there where the misty shore is rocky, elk run wild and giant redwoods creep down to the sea.
But I was eager to get to the place where the state’s coastal preservation movement took root four decades ago in a David-and-Goliath battle, and I knew I’d be meeting some of the visionaries to whom all Californians owe a debt of gratitude. Their story and the lessons learned are more important than ever, given project proposals big and small that could forever alter the California coast.
I knew I’d be meeting some of the visionaries to whom all Californians owe a debt of gratitude.Let me set the scene first.In the early 1960s, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. planned and began building a power plant at Bodega Head, one of the most jaw-dropping stretches of coast on the planet.
Meanwhile, developers were mapping plans for a monster residential project just north of Jenner at Sea Ranch, where sheep grazed between coastal bluffs and stunning pebble beaches.Those projects had the support of local officials, who saw new streams of revenue.
But a small group of residents saw something else: the destruction of paradise.
They believed there would be irreparable harm to fisheries and the magnificent coastal habitat. In their minds, there’d be another crime, as well: the privatization of a public treasure.
The late Bill Kortum, a veterinarian from Petaluma, refused to let it happen.
When I got to Bodega Bay, I met with Kortum’s wife, Lucy, and his son, Sam, along with others who had lobbied, biked, hiked, knocked on doors and circulated petitions all those years ago to save the coast.