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Ecotourism for a brighter tomorrow

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 16, 2008


Spring has come to Southern California in all it's glory. The season for brilliant blue skies, blooming flowers and breezy beaches marks the beginning of the annual tourist migration to the Pacific that lasts through labor day. As native inhabitants we can relate to why they want to make the trip to the casual glamor of North San Diego County.

Here on the gold coast of Utopia, cities such as Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside represent a small slice of the California dream. It's a great place to visit, and an even better place to live. Each year millions of people are California bound, some come for days, others weeks. For some it's an experience of a lifetime, for others a regular pilgrimage. Some come once, some repeatedly, some never leave.

And why do they come? It's our weather, the surf and sand, sport, style, and the live and let live lifestyle. The same reason we choose to live here. Some come to the watch birds most locals take for granted, or ignore altogether. I've met hundreds who come for the yoga or coastal meditations Swami style. I've met thousands who have come just to live the high life for a short time, partying until they run out of funds or drop trying to.

Sure visitors come with traffic, use the beach, litter, start fights in bars, and make a lot of noise in the pursuit of pleasure but so do us locals. The important thing is they leave money in their wake. Money is a good thing. Tourism dollars contribute to the tax base, fill local coffers and pay wages; they also contribute to the building of life guard stations and other public amenities. Tourists even help buy sand.

Ecotourism is a way to preserve Southern California's environmental quality and treasures, while banking on the result of commerce oriented conservation. The surf industry is reliant on favorable environmental conditions, if those are sacrificed to overdevelopment and ecological impacts, coastal waters will no longer lure visitors and their currency.

As the economy continues to darken and airlines suffer the rising cost of fuels, Californians and their fellow Americans will travel less frequently choosing instead to spend their vacation dollars without leaving home.

Coastal cities would be wise to recognize the bounty associated with a healthy environment. Putting in place policies requiring sensible environmental stewardship on the part of municipal employees , elected officials, local businesses, and those wishing to build or develop along San Diego County's North coast. makes fiscal sense.

If it's beautiful they will come.

Keeping our gold coast of Utopia the slice of paradise we know it to be requires a vision of a region not overrun by short sighted and ecologically malignant appetites for profit and plunder. Tourists won't come if they can't see the beach through the crowds clinging to the coast of a paradise lost.

Green begets Green...naturally.

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