The California Coastal Conservancy has granted two Associated Students groups a record $175,000 to help repair and restore the bumpy dirt trail that connects Isla Vista to Sands Beach.
The effort to revamp the West Campus Bluff trail, led by the A.S. Shoreline Preservation Fund and A.S. Bicycle Improvements Keep Everyone Safe, was approved by the conservancy last Thursday in a unanimous 5-0 vote. Funding was granted after the board noted that A.S. and the student body had already raised $90,000 for the project. According to A.S. Project Manager Maryann Johansson, the updated bike path will hopefully better serve bikes, pedestrians and the handicapped, while remaining ecologically sound.
Furthermore, the plans outline a goal of keeping bikes and pedestrians off of plant life and away from the cliff edge, while improving the path’s surface and drainage. Project organizers will resurface the path, which is used by runners and surfers alike, with decomposed gravel treated with a binding polymer to prevent ruts and flooding.
Johansson said the project has undergone four years of development. When it is completed, the resurfaced trail should measure between 10 to 12 feet wide.
“People won’t walk and bike on the edge of the path, destroying vegetation,” Johansson said, “By bringing the path away from the edge, we’ll prevent erosion and end up with a well-kept and well-defined path.”
According to S.P.F. Grants Manager Scott Bull, the total project will cost approximately $243,000 and will move forward following the reception of the conservancy’s grant.
“We’ve been meeting and working with campus administrators for a while,” Bull said. “It has been a long and trying process but this is a huge deal – this is the biggest grant A.S. has ever received.”
Coastal Conservancy Project Manager Moira McEnespy said her department’s grant process is competitive but that many requests are still funded because of the passage of Proposition 40 in California. Officially titled The California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Act of 2002, Prop 40 allocated $2.6 billion toward preservation and improvement of parks and wilderness areas statewide.
“The West Campus project was definitely a priority for us,” McEnespy said. “The board was extremely impressed by the fact that A.S. took the responsibility upon themselves to raise so much money and that the students initiated the project themselves.”
Johansson said once the actual grant money was in the bank and drawings for the plan were finalized, the project would go to a bid for construction. Until then, she said a timeline for completion of the project was indeterminable.
The plan has received a wide array of support from locals and community members, including 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone who said he was pleased to see the funding materialize for the project.
“I think it was a very appropriate grant from the Coastal Conservancy and that the enhancements to the public access area will be excellent,” Firestone said.