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Conservation - All the things you leave behind

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 27, 2003


"It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination." — Henry David Thoreau

On November 14th 2003, Del Mar lost one of its powerhouses. Quietly passing with the dignity that was her life, Alice Goodkind slipped into immorality after a long battle with breast cancer and leukemia. A champion of the San Dieguito River Valley and Del Mar Historian, Ms. Goodkind understood the link between community and conservation, and was tireless in her dedication to both.

A local since joining the San Diego Symphony as a violinist in 1968, Alice emerged as a key environmentalist in the San Dieguito region. Politically motivated to protect her adopted habitat, Ms. Goodkind was a founding member of the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and served on the conservancy's first board of directors. She also took on leadership roles with the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, and of the Whalen Lake Committee in Oceanside.

Alice Goodkind was a player and certainly played the game. Understanding the importance of regional environmental planning and preservation, Alice was the voice of watershed sensibility, and fought to protect the natural heritage of the fertile river valley connecting the backcountry with the coast. With no illusions, Alice fought the good fight. Described as "pessimistic in a way that continued the struggle," Goodkind's philosophy was one of pragmatic perseverance.

If a life is measured by what is left behind, the life of Alice Goodkind is one of stunning success. Through her early activism Alice was instrumental in the creation of the San Dieguito River Park, a 55-mile open space greenway and park system extending from Volcan Mountain, near Julian, and the spit of sand where the river meets the ocean in Del Mar. Merging habitat with history, the San Dieguito River Valley is a study of how conservation interests can successfully work within the system to bring about sustainable long-term environmental protection.

Symphony aside, Alice rocked.

It was author Edward Abbey, another environmental leader, who said, "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul." For Alice, and the activists who will be asked to fill her ample and well-worn shoes, the love of place and an affinity for the habitat in which she lived propelled her into action. Using a different scale to measure progress, affluence can be judged by what is left unmolested by the disciples of environmental destruction. Sadly spiritual poverty is setting policy in the San Diego region, and for all our wealth we are poorer for it.

The San Dieguito River Valley is a treasure too long taken for granted. Yes, major strides have been taken in preserving this irreplaceable biological resource, yet it's ecosystems are still threatened with complete collapse due to the pressures associated with human encroachment. The fight to protect the San Dieguito River Estuary is far from over, with the 22nd Agricultural district (aka "the Fairgrounds") trying desperately to further develop the compromised estuary in the name of animal exploitation.

The conservation battle is far from over. As population pressures continue to build, so too will efforts to impose urban growth boundaries in order to maintain some semblance of biological diversity. Encroaching on the county's last wild spaces with more single-family hotels and struggling strip malls serves nothing but our own undoing.

Although Alice Goodkind has passed on, this does not mean the work she started will not continue. In the capable hands of individuals like Supervisor Pam Slater and organizations the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, those seeking to further damage the fragile ecosystem have been fully engaged in court, and the court of public opinion.

At a time of diminishing quality of life it is vital to our collective well being to preserve what little open habitat remains. Alice understood this, as does Supervisor Slater and other friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, so the cause Ms. Goodkind dedicated her life to will continue and we will all be better because of it… whether we like it or not.

Thank you Alice.

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