Surfing Reserve sees first summit

Santa Cruz >> A local group overseeing Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve held its first summit Friday, tackling pollution, water quality and sea-level rise as it looks to protect an internationally renown resource.

The effort was organized by the reserve’s Local Stewardship Council and Davenport-based Save the Waves Coalition, which is conducting an economic study on how much the county’s surf breaks contribute to the economy. Held at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, the inaugural event focused on protecting the reserve, and drew high-profile support.

“The fact that this many people are willing to honor our local culture and honor the environment, and have those higher goals and be committed to practical action, is a wonderful thing,” Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said.

Laird, who also chairs the California Ocean Protection Council, said he was prepared to align that group with local goals to protect the reserve, one of a handful around the world. Malibu’s Surfrider Beach is also a surfing reserve.

Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, said coastal policy should include a number of viewpoints, including those that haven’t always been thought of as related.

“We have to have that sense of stewardship, action and follow-up to protect our coastal resources,” Stone said. “We typically do land-use planning with our backs to the ocean. And we typically look at ocean policy with our backs to the land. And where do those intersect? At our coast, at the beach, at your surf breaks.”

Designated on April 22, 2012, the county’s reserve was honored for its variety of surf spots, from Pleasure Point to Steamer Lane. In 1885, it also became home to the first known surf spot in California, when three Hawaiian princes rode redwood boards at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.

The summit was organized into a series of working groups, overseen by facilitators as officials from local government, businesses and nonprofits discussed topics such as pollution at Cowell Beach, plastic bag bans and climate change.

“We identified these as the issues that are affecting the coast here in Santa Cruz, and we really need to start figuring them out. Some of these are pressing right now, and we can make change happen right now, and some of them are a much longer term deal,” said Supervisor John Leopold, who is on the surfing reserve Local Stewardship Council.

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