Editors note: This is the first in a monthly series of columns by Cambria resident and former Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary employee Michele Roest on stewardship travel, which combines tourism with care for the environment and community.
Cambria has always been a hub for people who care about nature, history and small towns. Famous for its pines, Cambria is equally well known for its arts community, clean beaches, and as a serene retreat for weary road warriors. It is sometimes hard to believe that more than 3 million people each year travel through Cambria heading north or south along the Big Sur National Scenic Byway. Breathtaking natural beauty and environmental awareness walk hand in hand with lodging and business opportunities.
Linda Finley grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and attended Cal Poly. She later returned to raise her family, quickly settling in Cambria. She began her career in hotel management, moved on to manage Seekers Gallery and eventually opened her own gallery, Every Cowboys Ranch House, which she ran successfully for six years.
In 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Business Improvement District (CBID) began a program to promote tourism to unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. The Cambria Tourism Board was formed, and in 2012, Linda joined the board as chair of the Outreach Committee. A new CBID program, Stewardship Travel, was added specifically to attract visitors who care about nature and want to visit the unincorporated parts of San Luis Obispo County.
Linda immediately saw the benefit. I thought it was a natural for Cambria, especially for nonprofit conservation groups like Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch, she said.
Funding from the CBID helped support other visitor attractions, including a walking tour of historical buildings proposed by the Cambria Historical Society. The walking tour and map had already been developed, but funding was needed to design, purchase and install plaques for the historical sites, she explained. It became a Stewardship Travel activity, and CBID funding for the plaques came through the Cambria Tourism Board.
Among several other projects, the Cambria Scarecrow Festival also received funding to promote tourism during the month of October.
Lindas next outreach project is getting parts of Cambria ready for its close-up during the Amgen Tour of California, the nations largest bicycling event, as it finishes in Cambria on Wednesday, May 14.
The whole world will be looking on. We want our town to look good, she said. Linda has spearheaded efforts to install new waste and recycling bins on Main Street, clear brush along the route, and clean up the backside of businesses that face Highway 1.
Fire Chief Mark Miller has been a wonderful partner, Linda noted. The outreach committee will soon be approaching businesses to participate in keeping Cambria clean and attractive.
Stewardship, in a broad sense, means taking care of something. Stewardship Travel invites visitors to join Cambria in taking care of its community.
Personally, doing all this is very rewarding. It connects me to Cambria in a very special way, Linda said. Shje is a role model for stewardship travel and tourism in Cambria.
To learn more, visit http://visitcambriaca.com.