La Jolla’s Coast Walk Trail wins Orchid award from San Diego Architectural Foundation

La Jolla's Coast Walk Trail has been rehabilitated and maintained by Friends of Coast Walk Trail.
(Provided by Brenda Fake)

Accolades for La Jolla’s Coast Walk Trail continue to roll in. The historic trail won an Orchid award for landscape architecture at the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s annual awards ceremony Oct. 6.

Alexandria GradLabs, just outside La Jolla, won an Orchid for architecture.

This year’s winners of Orchids (“best”) and Onions (“worst”) were chosen from among more than 80 nominations in the categories of architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, interior design and miscellaneous.

Orchids honor design excellence in projects completed in the past three years.

Orchids & Onions began in 1975 as an educational program to raise public awareness and appreciation for the design and development of built projects considered to improve the quality of life in San Diego.

“Coast Walk Trail is a national treasure that was designated a historic cultural landscape by the city of San Diego in 1990,” according to the Architectural Foundation. “It is also a neighborhood gem, embraced by those fortunate to live nearby and benefit from its refreshment and beauty.

“When the sloping trail was noticeably deteriorating from increased use, soil erosion, overgrown invasive species and lack of city funding, a group of neighbors formed the nonprofit ... Friends of Coast Walk Trail in partnership with the owner of the Cave Store curio shop, Shannon Smith, to tackle the maintenance of this endangered resource. The nonprofit got to work, coordinating their efforts with city departments, local community boards, service groups and residents.”

Subsequent repairs included clearing invasive vegetation from the trail, which was built in 1932, and replacing it with native plants, fixing a bridge, repairing a fence and a view platform, filling in a dipping part of the trail to level it, and replacing old signs with new ones containing an updated logo and a QR code for a “History Hike.”

Calling the trail “one of our region’s natural gems,” SDAF said “the ongoing labor and successful fundraising attest to the fastidious organization and infectious enthusiasm that has spread throughout La Jolla and beyond. This group has stabilized, beautified and ‘given back’ a precious natural resource to San Diegans and visitors alike and created a strong model for preservation partnerships other communities can replicate.”

Orchids & Onions juror Salvador Impastato told the La Jolla Light: “It’s a community project that serves the greater good of the area, all by volunteers. It’s pretty awesome.”

Friends of Coast Walk Trail President Brenda Fake called the award “crazy in a wonderful way” and said the group is honored.

“While the acknowledgment is wonderful, it’s more rewarding to see the work getting done and see the community rallying for this project,” Fake said. “Kids are getting involved, their parents are involved and people come and talk about how important the trail is to them, and now there is a way to show that gratitude. It makes the effort worth it. I’m grateful.”

“Coast Walk Trail is a national treasure. ... It is also a neighborhood gem, embraced by those fortunate to live nearby and benefit from its refreshment and beauty.”

— San Diego Architectural Foundation

Fake previously told the Light that the goal this year is to raise $50,000 to install, establish and maintain new native vegetation over the next three years.

“Friends of Coast Walk is about to start Phase 3 of our trail restoration plan by replacing invasive species with native vegetation,” she said. “Last year we started with new Torrey pine trees on Goldfish Point. We will add a few more trees, lemonade berry, black sage. The native revegetation will be similar to what was achieved at Devil’s Slide above the walking bridge.”

In addition to the Orchid award, Friends of Coast Walk Trail was recognized earlier this year at the Save Our Heritage Organisation People in Preservation Awards, which honor preservationists who lead distinctive projects.

The trail also is being nominated for a 2022 national Vernacular Architecture Forum Advocacy Award, which honors achievements in promoting and preserving buildings and landscapes constructed outside academic tradition and without professional guidance. ◆


2:42 p.m. Oct. 10, 2022: This article was updated with a comment by Salvador Impastato.