Coastal Fund Gala Wows Guests


Matthew Mersel

Photo by Ramon Rovirosa

The University of California Santa Barbara Coastal Fund held its 13th Annual Gala on Thursday, May 24 at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum to celebrate the efforts of the involved students and cooperating organizations in preserving the beautiful Santa Barbara coastline.

Founded in 1999 as the “Shoreline Initiative,” the Coastal Fund allocates funds to and assists with various environmentally-conscious programs in the Santa Barbara and Goleta area. Some of the organizations that the Fund has partnered with in the past include the Environmental Defense Center, Goleta Valley Land Trust, The Arroyo Hondo Preserve and the Goleta Slough Management Center.

In addition, the Fund maintains an active presence on the UCSB campus, leading programs such as Plastic Awareness Week, the Day Without a Bag promotion at the UCen and the wider implementation of environmentally friendly “Hydration Stations” throughout campus.

In attendance at the event were many individuals who have worked with the Fund since its beginnings and have a great amount of respect for what the students have accomplished, including Ken Knight, executive director of Goleta Valley Beautiful.

“The whole organization is run by students, for students, and actually for the community,” Knight remarked. “We have five students on our board of directors, it’s the least we could do.”

Like Knight, many of the attendees look forward to continuing their work with the Fund and are currently planning even more projects, such as Darlene Chirman of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society.

“It is a really good supplement and a way to involve students in projects that are going on in the community,” said Chirman.

The night of refreshments, socializing and dancing was centered on a series of Keynote speakers that comprised of representatives from cooperating organizations and many of the Coastal Fund student officials. Kristi Birney of the Environmental Defense Center outlined the new Coastal Marine Spatial Planning initiative, designed to keep shipping lines and marine life habitats from overlapping, and Jennifer Thorsch discussed Kids in Nature, an environmental education program for fifth grade students in the Santa Barbara area.

Outreach and Education Coordinators Erica Aguilera, Alyssa Hall and Julianna Trowbridge discussed the progress the Coastal Fund has made recently, and how the organization is going to move forward.

“We have experienced tremendous growth over the past year,” they stated. “Now it’s all about stepping back, looking at the organization and deciding where to go and how to get there. We are focused on getting a cause, and making the campus aware of the cause.”

The cause this year was the awareness of plastic use, which manifested itself in various beach cleanups and the campus-wide Plastic Awareness Week. The Hydration Station program aims to provide water bottle filling stations throughout campus and the Coastal Service Program, which compensates organizations for assisting in various activities, were also discussed.

The presentations ended with an appearance by Scott Bull, the mastermind who started the Coastal Fund as the Shoreline Initiative. After presenting several of the graduating board members with awards, Bull had a few words to say about the organization that he began over a decade ago.

“The Coastal Fund is really a family,” Bull said. “It’s not about the money. It exists to support great projects in the community.”

Still focused on preserving the gorgeous Santa Barbara coast, the Fund continues to work with environmental organizations and grant thousands of dollars to projects committed to furthering their goals throughout the area.