My husband and I live near Sebastopol, and in the past have very much enjoyed hiking on Bodega Head and watching whales from the westside parking area. When family or friends visit from other parts of the US, and from overseas, we usually take them to Bodega Bay and drive them along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to enjoy the ocean views and the beaches. I also support Coastwalk and allied organizations, which perform periodic coastal cleanups that haul thousands of pounds of thoughtlessly discarded trash away from the beaches and roadsides every year. Some groups and individuals do that many times a year.
I am writing to express my concerns about the proposed Sonoma Coast Half Marathon, which apparently will occupy much of the PCH on September 29 this year, and is proposed to become an established annual event.
I understand that the event has been modified from an original proposal for a full marathon that would have shut down the PCH between north Bodega Bay and Fort Ross for part of the race day, to that of a half marathon that would allow single-line automobile traffic to bypass the racers on an hourly basis. But this arrangement still blocks public access to State and Regional beaches and parks along Highway 1—the only road access to Bodega Bay, Jenner and all the communities north and south along the Sonoma Coast, for lengthy periods.
The coastal towns welcome tourists but struggle to deal with over-visitation. For this proposed event, the marathon organizers are expecting to add 5,000 to 7,000 more visitors, as race participants, support and safety crews, commercial sponsors, and spectators. Crowds bring additional pollution and unless very carefully controlled, the half marathon also would add trash, including loads of plastic, to the normal load—and would stress already-burdened water and sewer supplies and emergency services. Roadside crowds would negatively impact fragile coastal bluffs.
As a west county resident, I’m aware of the multi-sport events and large bicycling races that have become popular in Sonoma County. They are economically beneficial, and the schedules trend to avoid disturbing weekend routines for most rural residents. I’ve grown used to avoiding the main routes that are used, and am grateful that multiple routes may be available for some of the participants. But this proposed half marathon event focuses narrowly on the coast—a very narrow zone to begin with; those who live on the coast cannot avoid it!
I strongly urge that the Coastal Commission will require a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for this event so that a full review and public comment process can take place, and so the local community can be allowed to help structure the event. It’s the least we can do to enforce coastal legislation, protect the coastal environment, and create an event that benefits Sonoma County residents as well as the event organizers.
Thank you for considering my comments.
J. E. Nielson