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West Cliff

Restoration of coastal wilds


Our goal is to restore coastal lands along West Cliff Drive by restoring plant biodiversity, expanding seabird breeding habitat, and engaging the public in stewardship of our coastal lands. This community-based restoration effort is having a broad impact on the local community by providing opportunity for citizens to participate in hands on conservation action and increasing capacity of educators to teach about coastal ecology.

We are implementing quantitative measures of restoration success where professional ecologists work with “citizen scientists” in the collection of field data and are working directly with neighboring educators to complement their curriculum.

Help plant or donate – go to project Facebook for updates

Site Description

The West Cliff Drive Coastal Protected Area stretches between the Santa Cruz Main Beach Boardwalk and Natural Bridges State Park Beach.  It is among the most accessible and well-visited sections of central California’s coastline. It serves as a gateway to the northern Monterey Bay a biological hotspot and designated National Marine Sanctuary and receives high annual visitor ship owing to its aesthetic beauty, renowned tide pools, whale watching, and scores of marine birds.

Conservation action opportunity

Previously, the marine terraces seaward from West Cliff Drive supported a biologically rich and diverse assemblage of plants characteristic of central Californian coastal sage scrub and coastal strand. Unfortunately, invasive ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis, a plant species of ‘High Concern’) has become the dominant vegetative cover forming monospecific mats that smother the entire cliff out-competing native coastal plant species, diminishing native coastal diversity, while providing habitat for invasive black rats (Rattus rattus).

Project results


In spring of 2011 we eradicated ice plant to expand nesting habitat for Brandt’s cormorants.

In 2012 & 2013 we planted native coastal plants in a highly visible demonstration sites with schools and many local partners and businesses.

Looking Forward

This template is highly scalable as many sites along West Cliff Drive hold high natural resource value, benefit nesting seabirds, have high visual impact and can be used for effective community education and outreach. This work manifests our commitment to promote native biodiversity of coastal lands, science-based restoration, early investment in our community’s children through “seeds to success” experimental learning and empowerment, mobilization of community action, networking and communication for the common goal of marine stewardship.

Become a Donor

Charolette Matusik Fund


“Above and Beyond” Volunteers

Alayne Meeks, Jackie Pascoe, Jessie Beck, Jon Felis


Partners & Funders

  • California State Parks
  • California Native Plant Society
  • Charlotte Matusik Fund
  • City of Santa Cruz
  • US Geological Survey
  • Coastal Conservancy
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Natural Bridges School
  • Patagonia, Santa Cruz Outlet Store
  • Life Lab, Gateway
  • School Pacific Collegiate School
  • University of California, Santa Cruz Natural Reserve System
  • University of California, Santa Cruz Green House