Our History

Coastwalk and the CCTA through the years

The California Coastal Trail Association (CCTA) originated as Coastwalk, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, founded in 1983 by grassroots supporters of coastal public access, coastal preservation and a statewide California Coastal Trail (CCT). As public and institutional support for the coast and a coastal trail grew, the organization expanded its reach and effect by nurturing a broad alliance of coastal stakeholders and renamed itself as the California Coastal Trail Association. This alliance seeks to truly realize the vision of “A well-stewarded California coast, highly prized as an irreplaceable commons, open to all,” by implementing the California Coastal Trail (CCT), a trail that will stretch along our coast from Oregon to Mexico. Originally envisaged by framers of the Coastal Initiative and Coastal Act in the 1970s, the California Coastal Trail is mandated and governed by various State laws. By building a strong alliance of the public, state and local government, coastal nonprofits and supporters from business, the CCTA seeks to ensure that the California Coastal Trail realizes is potential as a conduit to the coast and a beloved public space where all people can revel in the beauty of coastal California.

Coastwalk originated 28 years ago, at the instigation of longtime coastal activists Bill and Lucy Kortum. They proposed a trek along the 55–mile Sonoma County coast to draw awareness of public access and coastal preservation needs, and to publicize the fact that the Coastal Act of 1976 called for a continuous coastal trail the length of California, connecting cities and towns with natural resources and coastal parks.

That first “Coastwalk” was planned and led by Tom and Vivian McFarling, local environmental activists. It was so popular that it was repeated again, and became an annual event in Sonoma County, then spreading to other counties.

The leaders discovered their impact: “Coastwalks”, multi-day educational hiking and camping adventures led by volunteers, shifted walkers’ attitudes – from thinking about the beach as a place to read or play volleyball for the day – to valuing the coastline as a critical habitat uniquely affected by tidal rhythms and time.

By 1990 longtime volunteer Richard Nichols became Executive Director of Coastwalk and with the help of his wife Brenda, Coastwalk grew and prospered, eventually putting on “Walks” in each of the 15 coastal counties.

With the help of dedicated volunteers, Coastwalk continued its legacy of introducing thousands of people to the natural and human history of the spectacular California coastal landscape and helping to promote its conservation. As the early 2000s matured into the new millennium’s teen years, Coastwalk formed a strong partnership with the State Coastal Conservancy, the California state agency tasked by the legislature with leading the initiative to plan and complete the California Coastal Trail. After receiving several grants from the Conservancy for providing CCT public information, posting CCT signage and trail mapping, the Conservancy awarded Coastwalk with a grant to broaden the alliance that supports the CCT by developing the California Coastal Trail Association.

Today, the CCTA includes the public, coastal city and county governments, port districts, state agencies, nonprofits and businesses that see the tremendous vision of the California Coastal Trail. We work to facilitate collaboration between all these stakeholders and provide information and support to Trail users. We continue to offer Coastwalk’s to the public and individual and family Coastwalk memberships for those who support our work toward completing and promoting the CCT. We also are supported by our government, nonprofit and business memberships. Please find out more about our partners on this website and … we hope to see you out on the Trail!