La Jolla’s Coast Walk Trail is up for national award

Coast Walk Trail in La Jolla is nominated for the Vernacular Architecture Forum Advocacy Award.

La Jolla’s Coast Walk Trail is nominated for a nationwide award that honors “exceptional contributions toward the interpretation, appreciation and protection of vernacular buildings and cultural landscapes.”

The trail’s nomination for the 2022 Vernacular Architecture Forum Advocacy Award got the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s support during the board’s Jan. 6 meeting.

The Vernacular Architecture Forum, an organization that studies buildings and landscapes, was established in 1979 to promote appreciation and scholarship of vernacular structures, which LJCPA President Diane Kane said are “building[s] without the benefit of architects — so most of the natural-built environment.”

The LJCPA board voted to send a letter endorsing the nomination and singing the praises of Friends of Coast Walk Trail, which has managed the trail’s restoration for the past decade. The trail runs between Coast Walk (a short street west of Torrey Pines Road between Prospect Place and Amalfi Street) and Goldfish Point and has undergone major renovation under Friends of Coast Walk Trail’s care.

FOCWT President Brenda Fake submitted the nomination at Kane’s suggestion.

“Friends of Coast Walk Trail has done a superb job in rehabilitating the trail and getting some phenomenal public input in the process,” Kane said. “I think it would be a great honor if they could win and would speak well of La Jolla.”

The LJCPA letter reads in part: “By 2010, Coast Walk’s popularity jeopardized its very existence. ... Due to [sparse] city budgets and extensive deferred maintenance, a crush of tourists and a fragile ecology, the trail and its environs were crumbling.”

Seeing the need for repairs, a group of residents formed FOCWT to raise money, develop a habitat restoration plan, secure right-of-entry permits, hire contractors and recruit volunteers.

In the past 10 years, FOCWT executed slope stabilization projects, vegetation removal and restoration, pathway leveling, drainage improvements, fence and stairway repairs and more. It also has helped school service clubs, Boy Scouts and other youth organizations complete volunteer projects for service hours.

In late 2021, FOCWT planted seven new Torrey pine trees to create a miniature grove, and it is adding QR codes to existing signs to give a history of the trail dating to the 1800s.

“It goes to the website to teach people about the trail, the natives that were first here, the fact that it is the only lateral walking path that people can walk along in this area, and the guys who used to jump off the cliff in a circus-style act,” Fake previously told the La Jolla Light.

This year, she said, “if we can raise the money,” FOCWT will replace some fencing with the post-and-chain style that lines the rest of the trail.

“FOCWT serves as a model not only for preservation and stewardship of a beloved vernacular historic resource but also for community transformation through public engagement and participation,” according to the LJCPA letter.

Kane said that when she learned about the Advocacy Award, she thought Coast Walk Trail would be a good candidate. Winners receive a certificate and “bragging rights,” she said.

Architectural history “really started to boom” in the 1980s, Kane said, and VAF “was one of the big organizations that looked at vernacular buildings and vernacular landscapes. They have serious credibility and take that part of history seriously, despite it being a small niche of academia.”

Fake said she believes “the community deserves this award because the community came together for this. The trail is the trail; it’s how we have responded that has made it what it has become. People came out of the woodwork to help on this. This is an advocacy award, and the best advocacy has been the grassroots efforts. ... So why not do this for the community?” ◆