What is the California Coastal Trail?
Imagine a ribbon of coastal protection stretching 1,200 miles down California’s magnificent coastline from Oregon to Mexico. This is the California Coastal Trail (CCT). At present the trail is approximately halfway complete. If you have been to the beaches of California, you have probably visited an existing segment of the CCT, which includes paths ranging from the Lost Coast Trail to the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The dream is to connect these fragmented segments into a continuous, braided trail network spanning the entire coast. Some strands of the braid will be improved multi-use trails open to hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and mobility challenged users. Some strands will be light use, especially in sensitive habitats. Some will be rugged wilderness paths, others unimproved routes along beaches and yet others paved bicycle pathways. The Trail provides for many types of uses depending on location — hiking, backpacking, walking, cycling, skating, equestrian. In some regions it is both a recreational and a transportation trail. Its variety is what makes it so wonderful.
The CCT is owned by well over one hundred jurisdictions – county regional parks, cities, port authorities, State Parks, and land trusts – just to name a few. The California Coastal Trail Association has been formed as an alliance of Coastal Trail stakeholders and decision-makers working together to promote, manage, and complete the CCT.
A Brief History of the California Coastal Trail
The coast of California has been used as a trail for as long as people have inhabited the land. Native tribes residing near the coast on a permanent or seasonal basis used the readily accessible beaches and coastal grassland bluffs as transportation and trading routes, and many subsequent visitors have trod those same paths. The CCT’s more recent history began over four decades ago:
Proposition 20 (the “Save the Coast” initiative) provided that “a hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails system be established along or near the coast” and that “ideally the trails system should be continuous and located near the shoreline.”
The Coastal Act of 1976 requires local jurisdictions to identify an alignment for the California Coastal Trail in their Local Coastal Programs (LCPs).
The California Coastal Trail was designated California’s Millennium Legacy Trail in 1999 by Governor Davis and the White House Millennium Trail Council encouraged federal agencies to assist in developing it.
State Legislation in 2001 focused efforts to complete the Coastal Trail. Assembly Concurrent Resolution 20 (Pavely) declared the Coastal Trail is an official State Trail and urged the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Conservancy to work collaboratively to complete it. Senate Bill 908 (Chesboro) charged the Coastal Conservancy in 2001 to prepare a plan, in cooperation with the Coastal Commission and State Parks Department, describing how the Coastal Trail can be completed. This Plan was submitted in 2003 to the legislature and is entitled Completing the California Coastal Trail. It sets forth the goals and objectives of the CCT and includes a blueprint for how missing links can be connected.
The Governor signed SB 1396 directing the Coastal Conservancy to coordinate development of the Coastal Trail with the Department of Transportation (Caltrans). This bill also required local transportation planning agencies whose jurisdiction includes a portion of the Coastal Trail, or property designated for the trail to coordinate with the Coastal Conservancy, Coastal Commission, and Caltrans regarding development of the trail.
The California Coastal Trail Association is a growing alliance of Trail stakeholders – the public, local government, State agencies, NGOs, and business – working together to promote, support, manage and complete the California Coastal Trail. The California Coastal Trail Association (CCTA) originated as Coastwalk California, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1983 by grassroots supporters of coastal public access, coastal preservation and a statewide CCT.
The California State Coastal Conservancy is a state agency created to assist in the implementation of the goals of the Coastal Act. In addition to the many resource protection and enhancement programs the Conservancy supports, maximizing recreational opportunities such as the CCT is one of the agency's highest priorities. The Conservancy provides funding to public agencies and private nonprofit organizations to acquire land and construct new segments of the CCT.
The California Coastal Commission is a state agency responsible for statewide coastal planning and regulation, operating under the Coastal Act of 1976. An important part of this responsibility is the Coastal Commission’s role as the lead agency for CCT planning and permitting for the entire coastline. A primary objective for the Commission is to ensure the selection of a continuous and coordinated trail alignment, which respects and protects natural resources in a manner consistent with the Coastal Act.
California State Parks manage over 339 miles of coastline, and are a key partner in the California Coastal Trail.
The CCT is important because it:
Upholds our right to access and enjoy the beaches of California by creating a continuous public right-of-way along the entire coastline
Promotes responsible use of the coast through non-motorized transportation, such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding
Encourages coastal stewardship by guiding people to the coves, beaches, and bluffs that inspire the need for protection