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SLO County's Stewardship Travel Program offers an opportunity to travel with purpose 

click to enlarge TRAVEL EXPERT:  Stewardship Travel Director Diane Strachan has created a program to help tourists give back to the areas they visit. - IMAGE COURTESY SLO CBID
  • TRAVEL EXPERT: Stewardship Travel Director Diane Strachan has created a program to help tourists give back to the areas they visit.

The San Luis Obispo County Business Improvement District (SLO CBID) has created a new Stewardship Travel Program for the county’s WineCoastCountry regions. As the name implies, the program gives travelers a chance to act as stewards by volunteering or making donations that will benefit natural, historical, or cultural sites within the regions. Through a variety of activities such as monitoring plankton in San Simeon, utilizing beach cleanup kits in Avila Beach, collecting acorns for oak propagation in Arroyo Grande Valley, working in a native garden in Nipomo, and many, many more, Stewardship Travelers can devote a portion of their vacation to giving back to the places they visit.

It will “give them an opportunity to care,” said Stewardship Travel Director for SLO CBID, Diane Strachan. Strachan is credited with conceptualizing the Stewardship Travel Program, drawing on her own extensive travel experience, her background in environmental studies and planning, and her love of the outdoors. Just to give you an idea of the level of her passion, she celebrated her 50th birthday during a 23-day solo kayaking trip off the coast of Australia.

Strachan was hired by the county five years ago to help familiarize unincorporated areas of SLO County with the concept of Stewardship Tourism. She was later hired by SLO CBID to implement the program, and after roughly a year and half of working with participating locations and organizations, it officially launched in August of this year.

The SLO CBID, as well as the WineCoastCountry concept were created by lodging owners in 2009 and 2010, respectively, in order to promote tourism in the 10 unincorporated areas within SLO County deemed as WineCoastCountry: Ragged Point, San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Avila Beach, Oceano, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande Valley, and Edna Valley. Each of these areas offers several Stewardship Travel opportunities, all of which involve a donation and/or volunteer effort, a learning experience, and a chance to connect with people and places.

Strachan added, “The concept that the lodging industry is creating and promoting this is unique and inspiring.” According to SLO CBID, the program is the first of its kind in the country.

One Stewardship Travel opportunity that visitors can enjoy within the Edna Valley area is a self-guided tour of the Old Edna townsite, available from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. on the last Wednesday and Thursday of every month. Here they can learn about the site’s historic structures; taste wines at the Sextant Wine Tasting Room, which has vineyards on the site; and in the future participate in activities such as helping to restore the 126-year-old Blue Belly Barn, named after the blue belly lizards on the premises. For the donation component, travelers can make a contribution to the History Center of San Luis Obispo County.

Lucky travelers might even get a chance to connect with Old Edna’s steward-in-chief, Pattea Torrence, who has been restoring and maintaining the site’s structures for the past 15 years. Torrence first connected with Old Edna as a teenager and later went on to purchase the site, becoming its unofficial mayor.

Commenting on her experience with Old Edna and the type of experiences the Stewardship Travel Program can provide, Torrence said, “If you just quiet yourself for a moment, there’s something so valuable to this type of travel.” Given the number of quietly beautiful places within the WineCoastCountry regions, whether it’s the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria or Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos, Stewardship Travelers have plenty of opportunity to do just that.

While Old Edna may be her passion, Torrence encourages travelers to explore locations within all ten WineCoastCountry areas, saying “start in Ragged Point and end up in Edna Valley and you’ll be a happy person.”

For a full list of Stewardship Travel opportunities and more information about the program, visit To learn more about Old Edna visit

Fast fact 

Cuesta College has created a new scholarship program allowing all San Luis Obispo High School graduates to attend their first semester at Cuesta for free. Titled the Cuesta College Promise, the program will begin in fall of 2014.


Intern Trever Dias compiled this week’s Strokes. Send your business and nonprofit news to

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