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Trestles. The force of many

December 19 2008 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

The above Japanese proverb sums up the Save Trestles fight for me.

Yesterday, we were informed that the Secretary of Commerce decided to uphold the California Coastal Commission's decision to not allow a toll road to be built through a California State Park. If you've been following the Save Trestles fight, then you know the long, ongoing saga and associated details. If you haven't, then you can get the back story by reading this thread.

The takeaway from this effort is important as it paints the picture of our future.

I won't spend any incremental time outlining why the idea of a toll road through a state park is a horrible idea. At this point I think that point has been made by many, many people... instead I want to offer meaning to this fight, and what the victory amplifies.

At the top of the list for me is the simple idea that communities matter, especially when they are engaged. The flip side is, I dare say also true... which is, an disengaged community doesn't matter as they "don't exist" when decisions are made. This was one of the umbrella points in one of the better articles ever published in a recent issue of Surfing Magazine titled, The New Localism. Tragically, it seems like communities don't think they matter. They don't think they have any power. They don't think they can make a difference. Perhaps this point is a simple nod to the "all politics is local" truism. What we saw during this fight is entire communities activate. School kids did reports on this fight and came to the hearings. The entire surf industry, perhaps for the first time in history, flexed it's political/economic muscle towards an environmental idea. Multiple chapters rallied, heavily, behind this fight. Trout fishermen, naturalists, bird watchers all plugged in. The indigenous people of the region did more than show up, they delivered passionate rhetoric that was hard (maybe impossible) to dismiss or mitigate. The backbone of this fight isn't about any one person, it's about communities understanding their power and seizing it.

No plan, no results... no change. Ed Mazzarella, our rocking Director of Chapters, has drilled this into anyone's head that will listen. I see many angles into this point every day. The better campaigns we are involved in, the ones where we win decided and strong victories, are the ones with campaign plans. One of the challenges is that with a large fight (which in the end spanned the country, all levels of government and included a very diverse constituency) comes a massive challenge of coordination and focus. Kudos to all the groups that did heavy lifting on this fight. This win isn't one organization's win, it's all of our win. The coordination and strategy behind this fight was a blueprint for relevancy... a plan that guaranteed that it wouldn't be easy to dismiss us. It was what enabled the larger group to build momentum and push down the inane idea of taking the public's natural resource, a state park, and running a toll road through it.

I wrote about this one in the recent Making Waves (our newsletter for members, if you're not a member, go here to join). I pointed to a ten year old kid and an elderly woman who bookended the Secretary of Commerce hearing in Del Mar. These individuals were powerful. But then throw on the long list of absolute rock star individuals of hundreds and thousands of people that have plugged into this fight... as individuals they made a difference. Together they are impenetrable.

Surfrider Foundation is a massive network of people that care about our coasts. We connect with each other face-to-face at chapter meetings, parties, on on the beach, etc. We also embrace any and every tool that move our message forward: Twitter, blogs, videos, t-shirts, stickers, posters, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. One of the best characteristics of these tools is that they are virtually all created by all those people in the network. We had a fan build a Facebook app, SeaGarden, which now has more than 1,200,000 people on it. Look for us to sprinkle onto that app some relevant educational material that reflects our mission. This subject area is probably the one that I find the most exciting as I see it as enabling us to scale our movement faster, better and more personally to ALL the people that live along the worlds coasts. This brings me to onramps.

You like to take digital photos? We need that skill. You work at a surf company and want to make t-shirts? We need those. You're under ten and want to talk about a campaign for show and tell? Great, we want that as well. You like designing and distributing stickers? You love to manage and administer large events? Come on in. A few years ago environmentalism was a niche group. If you drove an early electric car people saw you as an oddball. The world changed. All those things have flipped. We all understand what's at stake... and we need all hands on deck. This reality is what feeds the "proliferation of onramps" philosophy.

Chad Nelsen, our Environmental Director, is getting his PhD. His area of study for this degree surrounds the economics of surfing (and our coastal regions). We aren't going to sit back and let others (like the TCA) assign a zero value to stunning, unique natural resources like Trestles. Our work on this campaign is now being offered for all breaks. Check out this article on this subject, then go here and start the process of understanding some of the value components for your region and waves.

I'll end this post with a personal message to the TCA and Orange County elected officials:

Embrace alternative transportation strategies that will better address the county's traffic issues without jeopardizing our environmental, recreational and economic resources. Please stop wasting our money on lawyers and lobbyists and to work with regional stakeholders to find better traffic solutions. If you don't do these things even after repeated strong nudges to stop your horrible idea of building a toll road through a state park, know that we, many of us, will be waiting for you and we will fight this concept for the rest of our lives.
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