The Twenty: A Mission to Save the Gaviota Coast

In just two generations, 280 of the 300 miles of Southern California’s unspoiled coastline have been lost to development. The 20 remaining miles make up the Gaviota Coast, a stretch of land between Coal Oil Point in Goleta to Point Arguello on Vandenberg Air Force Base. With over 20 years of chapter involvement, the Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation has worked to save this precious land.

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“I was attracted to Surfrider’s absolute dedication to the Gaviota Coast, their constant pressure, endlessly applied,” said Sandy Lejeune of Surfrider. “It was so clear to me that love was at the core of this group.”

The Gaviota Coast is one of only five Mediterranean-type ecosystems worldwide, a place of great significance to locals and visitors alike. With over 1,400 plant and animal species, the Gaviota Coast is a biodiversity hotspot, containing 20% of the world’s plant species. With many species threatened or endangered, saving this coastline is vital to California’s natural habitats.

“There’s nothing left like this anywhere in Southern California,” said Lejeune. “There’s so much love in this land. It’s what inspires me and countless others.”

Over the last 20 years, certain land parcels have been lost to development, including the build-out at the Bacara Resort and Spa. Beyond private land holdings, the land is not secured from the possibility of development.

twenty4“We have an enlightened government by and large, but citizens always have to be on guard and monitor,” said Lejeune. “You have to have an active community.”

Back in the 1970s, Selma Rubin, a local grassroots legend, saved much of the coastline from housing development, launching a petition drive to put a proposal on the ballot. Gaining nearly 12,000 signatures, she fought to protect this land. Surfrider has since taken up the fight with 20 men at the helm.

“We monitor every development project that comes up,” said Lejeune. “We spend countless hours and show up to make our testimony. Our work is absolutely essential.”

In an effort to raise local and international awareness, Surfrider has partnered with Scott Walker of Highliner Studios to create a moving documentary for the cause. Aptly titled, “The Twenty,” the half-hour documentary will focus on telling this story, hoping to attract sup- porters and donors interested in coastal preservation.

twenty2“The film itself will be a calling card for Surfrider for years to come,” said Walker. “We want the film to be an epic, cinematic short that allows people to see the beauty and appreciate the spirit and energy of the Gaviota Coast.”

Highlighting 20 key Surfrider Foundation members, the film is their story – an inspiring narrative of ordinary people against incredible odds. Hoping to foster a sense of stewardship for the land, the film will help raise funds for the Gaviota Coast, preserving the last remaining miles of unspoiled coastline.

“It’s so important to have a place that you can go that’s unaltered by man. Whether or not you even touch that part of that land or experience it, it’s just good to know that it exists,” said Walker. “A place that’s not altered by our capabilities.”

Deemed suitable for inclusion in the U.S. National Park system, Gaviota’s unique biological and cultural resources need to be protected. Whether you’ve camped, surfed, hiked, or simply admired this beautiful coastline, it’s the last. Each generation deserves a chance to enjoy it.

“This project is for love, out of love. We are giving back what the Gaviota Coast has given us. To me that’s an inspiring story,” said Lejeune.

This article first appeared in LoaLiving Magazine, vol. 2, winter 2013 

By Rachel Hommel, LoaTree team writer.

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