Sonoma Coast is Not for Sale – Locals Object to Marathon

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Sonoma Coast is Not for Sale – Locals Object to Marathon

Mar 21, 2019


Coast citizens are gathering signatures, letters, and momentum to oppose the proposed Sonoma Coast Marathon scheduled for September 29th. So far permits have not been issued and the North Coast communities (Jenner to Fort Ross) have rejected the marathon for numerous reasons. Originally designed to run from Fort Ross to Bodega Bay, the marathon has been reduced by half its distance to a 13.8 mile coastal run from Jenner at the Headlands Preserve to Bodega Bay.

Sonoma Coast Marathon – 26+ miles

Billed as a stimulating challenge, the website boasts that this run is “wild and not for the faint of heart. Our course takes you along exhilarating Coastal Highway 1, with hairpin turns and major elevation changes which will challenge your training and quickly become your favorite event of the year. Our course offers a spectacular scenic experience, along one of the most breathtaking and rugged sections of the world-renowned California coastline.”

Indeed, hairpin turns with cliffs falling hundreds of feet just off the shoulder of the road to the rocks and sea below could easily take your breath away no matter how hard runners are breathing as they navigate rapid elevation changes. The half-marathon is on a much less dangerous section of road than north from Jenner to Fort Ross. A collective sigh of relief can be heard all the way inland to the Board of Supervisors and County Event Planners.

Sonoma Coast Half marathon – 13.8 miles

Part 2, the 13.8-mile marathon, has not met with local praise and support because the plan disrupts the only road for access to residences and businesses at the tail end of tourist season. The original plan called for shutting off the entire highway and that has been revised to closing sections at a time as the runners make their way down the coast.

The first Coast MAC( Muncipal Advisory Council) meeting in early March had several people address their concerns during the open session for items not on the agenda. Among them  Norma Jellison, long-time coast advocate and volunteer, Cea Higgens, leader of the Sonoma Coast Surfriders, and Amanda Bryant, Bodega Bay resident and business owner. Their concerns reflect the concerns of many, right down to how much trash will be generated right after Coast Cleanup has removed trash in preparation for winter rains.

  1. When participants pay the entry fee, where exactly does that money get spent?

    2. Who are the “stakeholders” that thePress Democrat states were consulted?

    3. Why does the permitting process not require public input?

    4. How many opposition letters have been registered regarding this event? The term “relatively few” is vague. I want to know if the complaints are few based on the population of Bodega Bay or based on the number of participants?

    5. Will there be extra emergency staff and CHP on duty during the marathon?

    6. Who will pay for the emergency and CHP? 

    7. What safety measures will be implemented to ensure the safety of residents and visitors? 

    8. Who will take care of the extra rubbish generated by the Marathon? 

    9. Since the proposed route closes not only HWY 1 but Eastshore Rd. how will the Marathon compensate local businesses for lost revenue? 

    10. How will local residents be compensated for being denied access in and out of their homes?

    11. How do you justify blocking access, without knowledge or recourse, to those who come occasionally to the coast and depend on no-fee access to its State Park beaches?   

    12. Who will be responsible for the liability if Hwy 1 (which is currently giving way in multiple places) caves during the marathon? 

    13. Was the Coastal Commission consulted regarding the environmental impact of this marathon on our fragile ecology?

Our coastal communities will bear the burden to our roads, water, sewer, emergency services and mobility from race participants, associated support staff and onlookers. No pancake breakfasts or “charitable donations” can sufficiently compensate for the lack of public access to the coastal zone. All to facilitate a race that is affordable only to those who can pay the $175 or $150 race fees.

Please visit the Sonoma Coast Marathon Facebook Page to voice your opinion and consider sending your personalized letter to the people who will be making the decision about issuing a permit – see below.

Send an email ASAP to the local officials listed below (sample email & suggested talking points below)

Attend the very important marathon meeting in Bodega Bay on Sunday, March 31st, 2-4 pm at the  Bodega Bay Grange, 1370 Bodega Ave, Bodega Bay, CA 94923**

**This location is fully accessible and has a new sound system for better acoustics.

LETTER to decision-makers.

(suggested text but please write your own) Make sure they are aware of your concerns

The Coast is Not for Sale!

A marathon this size could easily generate tens of thousands of pounds of trash in the coastal zone in addition to spectator and support crew trampling damage to coastal bluff ecosystems. This, one week after Coastal Cleanup Day!

Our coastal towns already struggle with impacts from over-visitation yet the marathon organizers are promoting this event internationally and expect 5000-7000 participants + support crews, commercial sponsors, safety and first aid personnel etc.

Bringing people from all over the world to run on our highway while residents are stranded in their homes, visitors are stuck in their hotels, vacation rentals and RVs, and unlucky vacationers are turned away in their cars, is absurd and suggests an arrogance and elitism from the organizers who stand to make millions by exploiting the precious and fragile beauty of the coast.

Please express your concern that the proposed Sonoma Coast Marathon will shut down the Sonoma Coast from Jenner to Bodega Bay on September 29th 2019 and is gliding through a minimal review process without public input.

Thousands of race participants and spectators will block Highway 1, the only route to access or travel along the coast and significantly impact public access and sensitive coastal resources.

Please help save our coast from being commercially exploited by taking these 3 steps.

Share this information with friends.

Remember to include your friends from surrounding and inland areas who care about coastal protection and access to the coast.

California Coastal Commission:
Jack Ainsworth:

Permit Sonoma:
Tennis Wick:

California State Parks:
Mike Lair:

Sonoma County Regional Parks:  

Bert Whitaker:
Melanie Parker:

Sonoma Coast MAC:
Lynda Hopkins:
Brooks Rooney:
Cathy Beck:

The Coast is Not for Sale!

TO: See contacts


I am a resident of (Graton/Sebastopol etc.) who (walks regularly at Salmon Creek beach) (hikes Bodega Head) (enjoys sunsets at the Jenner overlook) etc.

I write to (protest, express concern, ask for more review…) the proposed Sonoma Coast Marathon.

How can anyone justify blocking public access to the State and Regional public beaches and parks along the Sonoma Coast?

The Marathon would shut down Highway 1, the only road access to Bodega Bay, Jenner and all the communities north and south along the Sonoma Coast.

The Marathon would pollute the coast with trash including plastic, stress water and sewer supplies and emergency services and crowds would negatively impact our fragile coast bluffs.

How do 5,000 – 7,000 race participants who can afford to pay $170 for a full marathon and $120 for a half, plus the thousands of onlookers, take precedence over coastal residents, businesses and the general public?

I ask the Coastal Commission and County to require a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for this event so that a full review and public comment process can occur.

It’s the least we can do to enforce our coastal legislation and protect our coastal environment.

The public must be heard!

Thank you for consideration.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Signature of Sender
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Address of Sender
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