California’s decades-old dream of building a coastal trail that covers all 1,230 miles from Mexico to Oregon is about 70% complete, but that accomplishment comes with good news and bad news.
A detailed map unveiled online Wednesday, May 12, shows numerous long stretches where you can walk or bike along the shore, like the 23-mile trek from the Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula to the Port of Long Beach. The map, three years in the making, is a project of the state’s Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy, two of the state agencies teaming up on the trail.
But the map also shows miles-long gaps, with no pedestrian paths and no clear plans for them, including much of Big Sur and Camp Pendleton. Other areas have interruptions to the trail, are unsafe or difficult to navigate, or diverge significantly inland from the coast.
The new, interactive map was celebrated by the Coastal Commission at its Wednesday meeting as both a key planning step toward filling in the gaps and a tool general public can use to identify locations and types of trails, which traverse beaches, blufftops and hillsides.
Prior to the meeting, Coastal Commission program manager Linda Locklin detailed how the map will help CalTrans incorporate trails into future roadwork, and help identify sites for public easements or state purchase. More than 40% of the coastline is publicly owned, and there’s coordination with local and federal entities for trails on their land.
“We don’t know what the future brings, but knowing what’s missing will help decision makers come up with solutions,” Locklin said. “We don’t expect that (all) the missing segments will be bridged in the next 10 (or) 20 years, but every foot of trail that gets built will be that much closer to completion.”
The goal of creating a statewide coastal trail network was established in the 1975 California Coastal Plan and has been slowly gaining momentum. In 1999 it was recognized as “California’s Millennium Legacy Trail” by Gov. Gray Davis and the White House Millennium Council. It was declared an official state trail by the state Legislature in 2002, and received legislative approval for measures in 2001 and 2007 that promoted development of the trail.
CalTrans planner Jeremiah Ketchum offered praise for the help the new map provided his agency.
“CalTrans has been looking forward to this,” Ketchum told the Coastal Commission. “We will work this into our planning and help bridge the gaps.”
Though the map provides a new tool to the agency, CalTrans has been a partner on the trail project since 2007. Locklin noted several CalTrans contributions, including help in funding an inland pedestrian trail through a portion of Big Sur after a landslide left no room on State Route 1, and transforming abandoned highways into trails in San Luis Obisbo, San Mateo and Sonoma counties.
The map delineates where you can walk on the beach from other trails, and distinguishes dedicated bike paths from general-use trails. In some areas, there is more than one trail — they combine for 875 miles of trail so far.
“The California Coastal Trail is one of the only flagship trails in the country that is accessible to almost everyone,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat.
“Many Californians have walked a segment or two without even realizing it. With this map, people can find trail segments easily, as well as public access points to get to the shore.”