“Well, a man’s mind can’t stay in time the way his body does.” “If I’m going to settle here I need to know about how and what will be,” -J. Steinbeck
It’s easy to observe a place, to look, to interpret and then file it away amongst the other pretty places of our memories. Several weeks ago, I was asked to hike with the objective of “seeing” the land. Hiking along the coast of Santa Rosa Island is like looking into the past of California’s Coast. The strong waves crash against the soften sediment, erode inland, and create new streams and tidal zones. These habitats create homes, full of life and death.
Wide open valleys dominated my tall dry grasses, border sharp and step cliffs down to the timid shallow waters where several leopard sharks feed on the smaller organisms that make these waters their home.
We have to see the places we make our home, rather than look at them. What have they been, how are they used, where are they going and how will we continue to use them. How do we deal with a place when, several people look at the land but don’t see the same land, and what kind of wildness will be left when we exploit every last bit coast we happen to “look” at.
Although there are prominent signs of human development all along the Island, this is still far more natural and wild than most of the neighboring California coast. Along our hike back from Skunk Point we took several moments of silence to see the land. To hear, and to feel it. There’s a symbiotic relationship amongst the inhabitants of this land, nothing is wasted and everything serves it’s purpose.
Along our California coast pacific storms create large ocean swells with damaging consequences, coastal erosion is a consistent threat to any structure build along this coast. The city of Ventura has learned from experience and is implementing innovative solutions with dealing with these issues. Down at the Ventura Pier and Promenade off of Ventura’s California St, the beach is sandy but very quickly the west end of the beach just north of the Pier, is entirely made up of large pebbles. Though these large pebbles were not brought here by some natural force, they were placed on the beach, along with geotextiles and concrete seawalls to protect our coastal structures. As you walk along the concrete path heading north you quickly notice the sandy beach almost completely disappear, a bit further down the path the signs and extent of erosion are even more prevalent. Large pieces of the existing concrete path have fallen into the ocean, exposed underlaying geotextiles are now slowly ripped away contributing to micro plastic pollution, and any remnants of the once sandy beach are nowhere to be found. Several years of doing the same thing over again, of consistently rebuilding the damage caused by coastal erosion has the city of Ventura looking for better more sustained solutions to the problem. The Surfer’s Point managed retreat project proposes that the bike path and parking lot be pushed back further away from the beach. This would restore the natural buffer zone along the coast, the fairgrounds property would be protected and the new parking lot will treat and filter storm water resulting in increased water quality and a more natural beach. On top of what was the parking lot and bike path, is a layer of cobble stones covered with sand with dunes and vegetation on top of that. These dunes stabilize the beach and restore a more natural beach. This type of project is really the first of it’s kind, moving away from building harden structures, it protects public access to the beach and accommodates rising seas. This being the most heavily used public space in Ventura, the economic value of a vibrate beach is very important to the city.