It’s a challenge that we accept every World Oceans Day–it’s never easy and it gets harder every year. But it’s a challenge we hold close to our heart anyway. What is it, you might ask? It’s the selection of our Coastal Champions, whom we honor each year in June. Please take a moment to read the astounding accomplishments of these individuals and businesses, and then RSVP for your free ticket to the breakfast celebration at Birch Aquarium on Friday, June 13.
Christine Hillger: Paws for applause. Christine Hillger put in the woman hours necessary to raise funds, install dispensers and keep all the bio-degradable bags needed in them over 14 years so that dog lovers can enjoy Imperial Beach without leaving behind the illness-causing bacteria that their pets inevitably deposit. She has undoubtedly saved many a shoe from eww, and almost certainly a great number of water lovers from missed days at work, trips to the doctor and longer term effects.
City of Chula Vista: We’re governed by, well, our government. The City of Chula Vista is leading its residents in water conservation with public forums, exceptional instructional tools and progressive services like requiring since mid-2013 most new single family homes be pre-plumbed for a gray-water laundry. Before you’re done unpacking your boxes, you can wash your clothes, then water your landscape, all with the same water. In San Diego County, we use ~60% of our drinking water on plants, so that’s a big deal.
H2O Trash Patrol: What’s SUP, trash? A standup paddle board, some sunscreen and a desire to teach their kids about the environment launched Patti & Lorenzo into the nonprofit business of picking up trash. Pesky water-borne marine debris in harbors, lagoons, rivers and isolated locales is no match for this team and their volunteers. In the past year, they removed 2,600 pounds of trash from our waterways bringing the total to more than 16,000 since they started counting in 2011.
Diane Castaneda: AMP up our fisheries. A nonprofit should represent the people whose lives it impacts and in San Diego, that has to include conversations with our Hispanic/Latino population and the children who will become leaders soon. En español, marine protected areas become áreas marinas protejidas (AMP). Over the past two years, Diane has developed and implemented a successful AMP outreach program for Hispanic and underserved children in San Diego County, initiating innovative partnerships with the San Ysidro Girl Scouts who have developed a MPA Jr. Watch Program for the Tijuana River Mouth MPA.
Find & Fix
Laura Hunter: Some fixes take decades. Laura Hunter worked for two decades to develop the strategies and negotiate the terms that led to the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, creating one of the most environmentally appropriate development projects in our region. We hear a rumor she plans to (re-)retire this year from Environmental Health Coalition. It’s well-deserved, although we expect that she’s got a few projects up her sleeves.
Blue Tech & ASBS
Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System: ExSCCOOS me, do you have the time? Thanks to SCCOOS, we will soon have top-notch technology powering a data portal to provide the time, date and myriad other information about our Areas of Special Biological Significance to support data-driven decisions in their managemen. State law requires we prevent all–yes 100 percent of–pollution from finding its way to these special places. Now we’ll know better how it helps. Julie Thomas oversees that effort as SCCOOS executive director and Lisa Hazard leads the project, currently in beta test.
Volunteer of the Year
Steve Kwik & Kai the dog: Steve is one of San Diego Coastkeeper’s most dedicated Water Quality Monitors and a co-captain of the Los Peñasquitos team. Every month Steve, often accompanied by trusty pup Kai, leads a team of volunteers or trainees out to collect the water samples that Coastkeeper uses to monitor pollutants in the Los Peñasquitos watershed. Quick to lend a helping hand or provide guidance to new volunteers, Steve is a favorite among seasoned volunteers and new ones alike. Steve’s unfailingly positive energy and reliability make him an indispensable part of the Coastkeeper volunteer family.
Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement (selected by the Board of Directors)
Patricia & Mike McCoy are legendary “Forces of Nature” revered regionally for their environmental leadership in the Tijuana River Valley and beyond. Patricia served on the California Coastal Commission. Mike is President of the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association. Environmental stewardship has been their life’s work for 45+ years and they are inspirational and energetic activists to this day. Among their many impacts, Patricia & Mike McCoy were instrumental in the establishment of the San Diego Bay Wildlife Refuge, the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and helped designate the Tijuana Estuary as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.