Persist. Better Together. These slogans characterize today’s social climate. But they also represent what people can do when they work together.
Coronado Cays residents got together and established the Friends of the Silver Strand. This organization was initially created by the Silver Strand Beautification Project (SSBP). They both work to protect and improve the Cays and its surrounding areas.
“Friends of the Silver Strand are Cays residents who gather to protect, preserve, learn about and enjoy the bay, beaches and natural resources of the Cays community.” Mary Berube, founding member
The Coronado Cays has a complex relationship with seventeen jurisdictional agencies. A few of them are the San Diego Port District, CALTRANS, the NAVY, the State Park, San Diego County, and the City of Coronado. They play a part in what happens from the Strand State Scenic Highway 75 and to the Cays. Consequently, fixing things down the Strand and around the Cays can be a daunting task.
Liza Butler knows about this struggle. She moved from the East Coast to the Cays and is the founding member of the SSBP. This grassroots organization was established in 1992 to address issues inside the Cays and its environs. Presently Butler, Phil Monroe, and other supporters of the SSBP are working on the fence replacement project along the State Park, and undergrounding the last mile of overhead cable on the scenic route. Two earlier undergrounding projects were completed with Federal Transportation Grants and a unique partnership with the SEABEES.
The Friends of the Silver Strand are following in the footsteps of their predecessors, the Cays Beachbusters. From 1993 to 2000, committed Cays residents worked to bring about major improvements in the Cays. They refurbished the entrance circle with flowering planters, and remodeled the tennis court area to include palm trees and the mosaic seating wall. The Beachbusters eventually disbanded after completing many projects.
One of the SSBP’s most notable accomplishments is the development of the Grand Caribe Shoreline Park. The SSBP submitted a proposal to the Port to transform this area into a park.
“This area in the Cays is owned by the San Diego Port District,” Butler said over a telephone conversation. But the 3.5-acre area had been largely ignored for years and was in terrible disrepair. “The native plants were dying, there was trash, and the place was boarded off with No Trespassing signs,” Butler recalled.
The SSBP Steering Committee’s 1994 park development proposal resulted in the restoration of the Grand Caribe Shoreline Park in 1996. The crowning jewel is a public art sculpture titled “Sheltering Wings.” As time went on, the Port did not maintain the area and the shoreline park deteriorated again.
In 2015 Butler met Daron Case, Brian Lippe and Mary Berube while having coffee at Calypso Cafe. They talked about the beauty of the Cays and the state of disrepair of some of the areas including parts on the outer walls. They decided to resurrect the old Beachbusters group with a new name and mission. The Friends of the Silver Strand became the stewards of the Grand Caribe Shoreline Park, the Cays, the Strand, and the neighboring areas.
When Friends of the Silver Strand planned to hold the 20th anniversary celebration of the restoration of the Shoreline Park in 2016, the park had not been maintained by the Port in a while. Butler wrote letters and sent them up the chain of command, so to speak, to request that the park be taken care of before the celebration. Then Mayor Casey Tanaka enlisted the Port’s support to help return the park to good condition.
The anniversary event brought officials from the Port and the City of Coronado to the Cays. Today the park is covered in grass, flowers, walking paths, has benches and trash cans, and the native ecosystem has been replanted.
Butler emphasized that it’s the voice of Cays residents working together that raises awareness about what needs attention in these areas.
The Friends use the SSBP’s Facebook Page to communicate with residents. They share information about their work and invite residents to fun events. They are currently planning a community Easter egg hunt. Case and Lippe also post their stunning photography on the Silver Strand Beautification Project’s Facebook page. They highlight the progress and splendor of the Cays.
Besides their advocacy and activism, the Friends of the Silver Strand intend to educate residents and the younger generation about the Cays special environment and needs. In January, they hosted Dr. Phil Pryde, a San Diego State University Professor Emeritus, who gave a presentation on “Birds of the Cays.” Over 30 people attended the presentation.
The Grand Caribe Shoreline Park is located at the south end of the Cays on the bay side. It’s a testament to what Cays residents can accomplish when they persist and work together.
Butler describes the years of hard work between the SSBP and Cays residents this way: “The confluence of love for this land, native landscape, coastal waters, wildlife, art, education and the passion for preservation and community — created the elixir referred to as the Friends of the Silver Strand.”