Building with nature: Can reviving a marsh save this California town from sea level rise?
A group including local stakeholders are trying to save this once-thriving resort town from sea level rise. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Coast Ecosystems)
Calaveras would be the first place in the world where residents could walk out their front door and be within sight of a California beach.
It would become an oasis along the Pacific Coast that, for a few days a year, could host hundreds of artists, music festivals and festivals.
But a sea-level rise that is accelerating globally is changing the course of this community and, in doing so, threatens hundreds of other places that depend on California’s natural features for their economic well-being.
Calaveras is a place known and loved by a growing number of residents, and the fate of the town’s future rests in the hands of a few local residents who are at the forefront of the struggle to protect the town from a crisis they themselves created.
Since the first year of its existence, Calaveras has been a place where an assortment of artists, musicians, writers and others have come together to create a dynamic arts ecosystem. In its second and third decades, this community has relied on its unique ecosystem to support its future.
The town’s residents have grown to value sea level rise as a threat to the town’s unique ecosystem and to recognize that, without a fundamental shift, their town’s future could be threatened.
The city was once protected by a natural barrier called the Headlands, which rises in the region from 200 feet to over 3,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. This natural barrier is home to large stands of trees called Coast Redwoods that create a high canopy in the summer that allows ocean breezes to cool the air and keep the temperature from being too hot, even in the most extreme heat of the summer.
But as sea levels rise, coastal residents are increasingly worried about the fate of this ecosystem. And, with the realization that this barrier