Silver Strand Nature’s Bridge to Discovery wins Honor Award for “Landmark Landscape” at the 2018 ASLA San Diego Design Awards
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently gave the Landmark Award to the Silver Strand Nature’s Bridge to Discovery. Driving north from the Coronado Cays on Highway 75, the 1.5 mile stretch of land, which starts south of the Naval Amphibious Base and ends north of Fiddler’s Cove Marina, was transformed over 15 years ago into an award-winning bayside trail with help from a devoted group of Cays residents.
“It is particularly meaningful as it was in the category of a Landmark Award, eligible only to projects over 15 years old,” said Schmidt. “The award recognizes the timelessness and durability of the design. It is also a tribute to the City [of Coronado] and their maintenance crew for being good stewards of the project over the years,” Schmidt added.
Schmidt was selected from a public process initiated by the Silver Strand Beautification Committee around 1996. This group of concerned Cays citizens, led by Liza Butler with support from former City Council Member Phil Monroe and Cays resident Marjorie Logan, has advocated for the area’s improvements for over 20 years. They worked with the City of Coronado to gain a federal transportation grant to improve the scenic highway.
“Wonderful to be recognized and for the Silver Strand and Cays projects to come to light again,” said Logan.
“It is truly a beautiful place to enjoy nature and our environment,” said Phil Monroe, former Coronado City Council member and steadfast advocate of the project.
“The award acknowledges that Coronado has accomplished important strategic work to create a worthy ‘Second Entrance’ to our Village,” said Monroe. “We all know about the bridge and the beautiful view of Coronado and the Pacific Ocean. The Strand is certainly different but still worthy of attention to welcome people. Our Scenic Highway is a treasure!” Monroe added.
The award has a greater significance for Monroe. He calls it, “The Power of One.”
“Over the years I have seen wonderful things happen in Coronado because a single person had a vision and a passion for improvement of our great town. With the Silver Strand, it is clearly Liza Butler,” Monroe acknowledged.
For her part in the advancement and execution of the Nature’s Bridge to Discovery, Liza Butler offered this. “For me, this award is a consummate affirmation that the preservation of natural beauty is a singular and soulful quest, sought by many. It’s a testament to Margaret Mead’s belief: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,'” Butler said.
Dealing with this area was very challenging given the number of agencies and organizations that have varing types of jurisdiction here. These included local, state, and national public agencies: The City of Coronado, the City of Imperial Beach, US Navy, San Diego County, California Department of Transportation, Army Corp of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, State Historic Preservation Office, California American Water Company, Kumeyaay Native Americans, and the California Coastal Commission.
“To me this is a powerful lesson,” said Monroe. “Many people want to complain and hope that ‘Somebody will do something!’ That doesn’t work. Liza has led the way for over 20 years on the Strand with her vision, energy, resources, and contacts. Liza contacted the leadership of each of these organizations to gain their support,” added Monroe.
There were also other limitations to consider. “Sensitivity to the environment of the Silver Strand was also extremely important as endangered and threatened species live on or near the area, especially the California Least Tern. The Least Tern has a large preserve of open space immediately adjacent to the project so it was very important that we only plant native species compatible with the preserve,” said Schmidt. “Non-native plantings can attract pests such as ants that could cause harm to Least Terns,” Schmidt added.
The concept of a nature’s bridge to discovery was the brainchild of Schmidt and his team. “Our idea was that Coronado has a man-made bridge, but the Silver Strand is a natural bridge to the community. And that natural bridge is overflowing with many hidden wonders just waiting to be discovered. We wanted visitors to discover the wonders and treasures of the Strand. We presented the idea that the trail and improvements could be called ‘Nature’s Bridge to Discovery’,” said Schmidt.
The Silver Strand project encompasses five discovery points: The Solstice Clock, Wind and Dune Retreat, Eel Grass Deck, California Least Tern Interpretive Panels, and the Wing Deck. According to the visitor’s brochure, “Each discovery point highlights the one-of-a-kind ecology of the Strand. These discovery points are connected by a meandering path; scattered along the trail are 24 sand sculptures depicting native plant and animal life — but you have look closely to find them!”
Since opening of the first phase, the group has worked on a number of other improvements along the Silver Strand, including undergrounding utilities and an overlook near the City boundary with Imperial Beach.
“Other projects include center island medians, entry monuments for Coronado and Imperial Beach, and fencing west of the State Highway, among others,” said Schmidt. “We have been fortunate to have worked on various projects along the Silver Strand now for over 20 years,” Schmidt said. Ongoing improvements for the Silver Strand Scenic corridor include building the fencing along the west side of Scenic Highway 75 in the near future.
In addition to the award this year, the Silver Strand “Nature’s Bridge to Discovery” has won recognition from the American Public Works Association of San Diego, the National Rails to Trails Conservancy, and ASLA National; a Grand Orchid from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, as well as a Merit Award for the Least Tern Monument detailing, and another Honor Award from ASLA San Diego back in 1999.
“The Silver Strand truly is a place where there is much to appreciate and discover,” said Schmidt. “It has been an honor to be a part of its evolution over time. We are looking forward to what the future might hold.”