Bill Kortum

Coastwalk Founder 1927 to 2014
Lucy and Bill Kortum

William Kortum, who championed the cause of environmental protection in Sonoma County and on the California coast, died at home of prostate cancer on December 19, 2014. His role as mentor to a generation of activists led many to regard him as the father of the Sonoma County environmental movement.

In recent years he was campaigning for public access to Petaluma’s Lafferty Ranch, and for the completion of SMART rail and the California Coastal Trail. Coastwalk California, an organization he co-founded 31 years ago, is the nonprofit that advocates for the statewide California Coastal Trail (CCT) and public access to the California coastline. A popular segment of the CCT on the Sonoma coast bears his name, the Kortum Trail.

Bill traced his awareness of environmental concerns to early conversations with his parents: his mother, Vina, a descendent of the Donner party, and his father, Max, whose parents were the first wine makers in Calistoga on Kortum Canyon road. His parents introduced him at an early age to the outdoor splendor of Northern California. Even though there seemed to be no limit then to where he and his family could hike and camp, his father warned him that their access to such activities might well be lost to development by the time he grew up.                READ MORE…


Listen to: The Story of the Hole in the Head

by Bill Kortum, cofounder of Coastwalk, with Una Glass, Execuative Director of Coastwalk | Bodega Head, Sonoma County

Remarks at Bill Kortum Memorial

by Una J M Glass,  Coastwalk California Executive Director
January 24, 2015

I was so very honored to be asked by the Kortum family to participate in Bill Kortum’s Memorial.  My remarks about his lifelong activism and love of the coast are below as well as the slideshow I assembled documenting his life.

I first met Bill Kortum in 1974 when he ran for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors . I was a Political Science student at Sonoma State crunching data for his campaign.

I was 20, an adult in training, and Bill was a larger than life figure, a leader in the blossoming Sonoma County environmental movement. His presence and words asserted authority and intellect. I was completely intimidated.

Over the years I ran into him at various events but did not come to know him well for another two decades when I joined the Board of Sonoma County Conservation Action. Then I came to know Bill as friend, and as man of big ideas. A big picture kind of guy. A person of global perspective, a renaissance man, an intellectual, a gentleman and a man of principle. He was a mentor and colleague. I enjoyed nothing more than brainstorming with Bill.       READ MORE…

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“The coast is never saved, it’s always being saved. Our work, your work, is a labor of love that is never finished.”

Help continue Bill’s dream.