Interpretive Association works to connect youth to Lost Coast

photo caption:

1. Lost Coast Interpretive Association Board of Directors from left to right, Eve Broughton, Ron Broughton, Liz Colwell and Cheryl Lisin.

2. Two historic barns at the King Range Project office and BLM fire station in Whitethorn.

3. The Lost Coast

Cathy Miller

Lost Coast Interpretive Association

The span of California's North Coast, from Rockport in Mendocino County, north to Ferndale in Humboldt County, is known as "The Lost Coast." The steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains here make this section of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish roads through it. Consequently it's the most undeveloped portion of the California coast. A local non-profit, the Lost Coast Interpretive Association, (LCIA) is embarking on a new effort to bring awareness of its pristine beauty, native plants and animals, and how to safely enjoy and conserve this special place.

Its centerpiece, the King Range National Conservation Area, is widely considered one of the crown jewels of Bureau of Land Management's protected areas across the country. The Lost Coast receives thousands of visitors every year. They come for its unique flora and fauna and breathtaking land and seascapes. They come for its miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. They come to camp, film, photograph, and bird watch. As one beach hiker put it, "Mostly I just come to breathe it all in, the ocean air, the beauty of this black pebble beach, the sounds of the waves, the wind and birds."

Eleven years ago, in March of 2000, a group of students from Calgary, Alberta, Canada was hiking on Black Sands Beach when one of the parent-chaperones, a 45-year old woman, was struck by a rogue wave. Two 17-year old boys ran in to rescue her. All three drowned. The shock and loss of this tragedy reverberated through the Lost Coast where there was an outpouring of sympathy for the group. The small board of the Lost Coast Interpretive Association and Bureau of Land Management at King Range wanted to do something beyond the warnings in brochures, maps and signs to alert people of the dangers and challenges of hiking the Lost Coast Trail. They decided to produce a short film. With BLM funding, LCIA employed local talent, including Al Ceraulo who co-directed it with Los Angeles Director, Sara Mast, and local actors, Utah Blue and Josh Sweet, to produce Lost Coast Adventure. The 20-minute film follows the backpacking trip of "Chad" and "Jeff" along the Lost Coast Trail in the King Range. Through their comical misadventures, viewers learn about the tides and wave awareness, fire safety, and leave-no-trace practices, all while showcasing the unspoiled beauty of the Lost Coast.

"Outfitters and other organized groups like the Boy Scouts, bring groups of all ages to the Lost Coast every year," said King Range National Conservation Area Manager, Gary Pritchard-Peterson. "We wanted a video that would alert people to the potential dangers of not taking necessary precautions while exploring this area. As a condition of their permit, these groups are required to watch the Lost Coast Adventure video. They are also given maps, brochures, tidal charts and regulations to prepare them for their trip."

In addition to the film project, LCIA has done a children's Nature Fair at the King Range Project Office in Whitethorn and nature displays at Whitethorn's annual River Celebration.

In 2010 the BLM received Youth Incentive Funding and stimulus funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to restore two historic barns at the King Range Project Office. Working with the LCIA, King Range Interpretive Specialist, Rachel Sowards Thompson proposed to BLM that the barns be used to house an education center, to be cooperatively managed with LCIA. Still very much a work in progress, the barns will house interactive nature displays, a classroom laboratory, educational books and brochures. Also planned for the Education Center grounds is trail access to Bridge Creek, a picnic area and a native plant demonstration garden.

There has been a movement across the country, spurred by Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods, to expose children to nature in a meaningful way. It arose out of a "growing body of evidence linking the lack of nature in children's lives to the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression." The BLM joined the movement by providing small grants to their field offices to support youth programs. Since 2007 the King Range Project office has been awarded several of these small grants to purchase equipment such as microscopes, mountain bikes and backpacking supplies to engage youth in the outdoors. In 2010, the King Range Project Office received its largest sum of funding for their youth programs as they were looking to expand their reach through employment, curriculum development and the design of the native plant demonstration garden. They saw this opportunity to partner with LCIA to make this a reality.

LCIA enthusiastically took it on and contracted local science educator, Melinda Bailey to write a curriculum known as the "Lost Coast Environmental Education Resource." LCIA then contracted education specialist, Stephanie LeFevre to write grants for expanding environmental education opportunities throughout the region. In partnership with Friends of the Dunes and Mattole Restoration Council, LCIA was awarded a Whale Tail grant through the California Coastal Commission in March, 2011 to bring the Lost Coast Environmental Education Resource to local schools. Beginning September 2011, LCIA and BLM will facilitate the Youth Interpreter Program at South Fork High School. High School students will be taught the skills necessary to teach Redway Elementary School students hands-on science lessons from the Lost Coast Environmental Education Resource once a month. This dovetails nicely with LCIA's plan to eventually train young people to be docents for hikes through the Lost Coast and possibly start a Junior Ranger program.

From the breadth and depth of their plans and the impressive launching off point they've been able to establish through partnerships and grants, one may think LCIA is a fairly large group. At this point however, the LCIA board consists of four Lost Coast residents whose passion for the environment and love of the Lost Coast region bonds them together in their mission "to preserve the unique environment of the Lost Coast." They are Eve and Ron Broughton, Cheryl Lisin and Liz Colwell, all residents of the Whitethorn and Ettersburg area. Former board members who also contributed to the formation of the group include area residents, Diana Totten, Linda Crook, Altadena Delacruz and Kevin Dyer.

Eve Broughton and her husband, Ron, who've been with the group the longest, started coming up to Humboldt County from the Bay Area 37 years ago on camping vacations with their kids. Eve, a retired medical technologist, whose lifelong interest in "how things in nature evolve and are constantly in flux" led to seven years of study in anthropology and evolutionary biology. She and her husband Ron, whose background is in the banking industry, and who shares Eve's love of nature, retired to Whitethorn in 1996. Ron is president of the board and chief financial officer.

Cheryl Lisin, a native plant specialist, who is in charge of designing the native plant demonstration garden between the barns at the proposed education center, says that she grew up with an awareness of living with as light a footprint as possible. "As we develop our homesteads and plant our gardens, there's less space for nature's ecosystem. If we figure out ways to live here and not encroach on the native flora and fauna, we can keep biodiversity strong. At the demonstration garden we are planning, we will harvest rainwater rather than pump from the creek, landscape completely with native plants, and inside the barns will have nature education displays that will help show how everything in nature has a role in keeping a healthy balance for all." She and her husband Steve live in Whitethorn.

Liz Colwell, the newest member of the board is a ninth-generation Californian, who moved here with her husband Kent, in 1996. Liz has an extensive background in business management, and worked at Alternative Energy Engineering for 11 years. Liz says she has "always had a keen interest in natural science in general and the local environment in particular. "I'm excited about the education program LCIA is developing that will help local teachers incorporate specific education about the ecosystem of the Lost Coast into their curriculum and be able to teach it in fun and exciting ways. I'm also looking forward to our partnering with Youth Alive Outdoor Adventures which will be doing backpacking trips, kayaking and rock climbing with local youth."

In the coming months, LCIA will be submitting articles through experts in different fields of the natural sciences, about the native plants, animals, geology and native people of the Lost Coast region to the Redwood Times. This will be a bi-weekly series, under the heading, Natural Life on the Lost Coast.

In speaking of her decision to retire here, Eve Broughton said, "Thirty-five years ago, we visited Bear Harbor for the first time. It had everything I love: meadows, forests, wild animals, big clear blue skies and the only sounds you heard were the sounds of nature. I grew up in Walnut Creek when it had only 3000 people and now it has 125,000 and skyscrapers. Then as an adult we lived in Oakland for several years. After you've spent a long time living in urban areas you realize how very special this place is that we now call home."

LCIA welcomes people who share their love of the Lost Coast and would like to be involved. There will be a variety of ways to volunteer including: helping with the garden, submitting articles, native seed and plant collecting. Fencing materials are needed for the garden. People who wish to volunteer or donate may contact LCIA at: