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UCSB Grads embark on 1,200 mile expedition to spread California Coastal Trail awareness

NORTH COAST - Three UC Santa Barbara grad students are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

Morgan Visalli, Jocelyn Enevoldsen and Alisan Amrhein are best friends and dedicated young coastal enthusiasts. Now they're on a mission to travel 1,200 miles and spread awareness about the California Coastal Trail. They began on May 1 at the Oregon border and arrived in Humboldt County less than two weeks later. Friday morning the girls met up with supervisors Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn at the beach near Table Bluff County Park in Loleta to promote their efforts. 

"The trail spans 1,200 miles along the magnificent California coastline from Oregon to Mexico and we will be taking 96 days to do the full 1,200 mile journey," said Enevoldsen, who previously worked for the California Coastal Conservancy.

The trio met while getting their master’s degrees at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. They obtained policy fellowships with the California Sea Grant's State Fellows Program and during that time learned of the trail. Morgan and Jocelyn, who go by MoJo, will be traveling on foot the entire way while Alison drives a van loaded with equipment and helps with logistics.

"I really wanted to support them and their journey and help to raise awareness for the California Coastal Trail," said Amrhein, Support and Coordinator.

The trail is a network of public trails for walkers, bikers, equestrians, and more along the California coastline. However it is only half complete.

"They've been making great progress, there have been segments of the trail that are being built every year and we just want to help create better information about what needs to be done to get it completed," said Visalli.

Enevoldsen and Visalli are using a Trimble GPS to map their route and record trail information.

"We are identifying problem sections where we either have to do road walking, go around private property, go around a military base, and we're trying to make sure that future hikers can walk the entire California Coastal Trail and enjoy this resource," said Enevoldsen.

The trail has been 40 years in the making; established in the Coastal Act of 1976 which required local jurisdictions to identify an alignment for the California Coastal Trail in their Local Coastal Programs. 

“The California coastal trail is owned by over 100 jurisdictions so it's really important that all the coastal communities work together so that all of their trail segments link up,” said Enevoldsen.

The girls have averaged 12-13 miles per day so far. But despite their sore muscles and long days, they find motivation knowing that their efforts will help protect and preserve the coastal environment for many years to come.

“We're just excited to be out here and want to encourage everyone to experience the coast and protect the coast because it's a really fragile resource and it's up to us to take care of it,” said Visalli.

Enevoldsen says, "The California coastal trail is a really important tool for coastal communities to ensure coastal access and open space preservation for generations to come."

When the trio finishes their expedition, they will head to the California Coastal Trail Association’s inaugural symposium. There they will share information and teach coastal counties, who are charter members, how to successfully apply for grants to fund trail segments. If you’d like to follow their journey, they are documenting the entire thing with video and photos. Just visit MoJo Coastwalk on Facebook, or the California Coastal Trail Association’s website coastwalk.org

By: Sierra Jenkins