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Northern California Coastal Spot is 1 of 52 Places in the World to Visit

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A coastal section of Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County, CA. | Photo: Courtesy Bureau of Land Management
A coastal section of Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County, CA. | Photo: Courtesy Bureau of Land Management

California has over 800 miles of ocean coastline, and while I haven't wandered its full length, I've been hard pressed to find a spot that was not worth visiting. Sure, Malibu and Big Sur are the popular and easy-to-please spots, but I'm always the most excited to visit the harder-to-reach and lesser known coastline, from Montaña de Oro to Año Nuevo and beyond.

That's why I was pleased to see that the New York Times featured California's North Coast in its "52 Places to Go in 2014" this weekend (Tahoe and downtown L.A. were also listed).

The North Coast generally refers to the state's three most northern coastal counties -- Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte -- but can include Marin and Sonoma, depending on who you're talking to. Despite the Times' "North Coast" subhead, its text really honed into one specific spot: Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands.

Its name may not evoke images and nostalgia that the Lost Coast or Redwood National and State Parks might, but it's striking beauty deserves, like so much of the coast, to be among them. So why single it out? The Times' list isn't a random collection of 52 places to fill some hyperbolic listacle quota. Its picks are very much about the here and now: downtown Los Angeles for its livability renaissance, Lake Tahoe for all the new tourism infrastructure, and, to cross the country, downtown Atlanta for revitalizing its city center (the 22-mile BeltLine trail, as featured on KCET's "City Walk," comes to my mind).

For Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, it's been getting attention lately, even on this blog. Once private land owned by the Stornetta family, the 1,255-acre coastal plot was acquired by the federal Bureau of Land Management in 2005 to be preserved for public use. An additional 500 acres were acquired in the past couple years, allowing for 12 miles of continuous open coastline north of the small town of Point Arena.

Now, Congressman Jared Huffman has legislation making the rounds on Capitol Hill to include it in the California Costal National Monument, a unique and somewhat intangible designation that protects thousands of small islands, rocks, and other exposed natural features off the state's coastline. Beyond the tourism potential that comes with being the only land-based part of the monument, the designation could bring more opportunities for grants, protection, and resources.

But designation or not, it looks like more tourists will be visiting anyway.

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