The Colorado-Coastline Connection

A local non-profit works from the inland out

Editor’s note: We are excited to showcase Colorado Ocean Coalition as our November Featured Friend on We’ll be covering the organization and its good work in this space throughout the month.

by Katherine Nettles
COCO Communications Coordinator

Coloradans have what may seem an unlikely connection to the ocean.

Vicki N. Goldstein, founder of the Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO), often addresses questions of why there is an ocean coalition in the middle of the Rockies—we are certainly about as far inland as we can be. But Coloradans are an active bunch, and appreciate our natural resources like mountains, rivers, and snow. Our namesake, the Colorado River, is one of two major watersheds in the state that feed significant flows into the ocean—when left alone. Our snowstorms originate on the Pacific coast, and our wanderlust leads us to surf, scuba dive and explore coastlines all around the world when we aren’t busy playing in our own backyards.

And you don’t have to be a skier, a kayaker, or a world traveler to appreciate the importance of our oceans. Three-quarters of our oxygen comes from oceans, our freshwater and municipal water supplies come from (cloud-filtered) seawater, and a good deal of our food supply does too. It is not just the seafood we eat, either. Many vitamin supplements, ingredients used in pet food and livestock feed, spices (sea salt, anyone?) and even beer and wine additives are sourced from the ocean and its inhabitants.

So it isn’t really that strange for an active, ecologically informed population like ours to be a leader of ocean stewardship. The Colorado Ocean Coalition, Boulder County and the City of Boulder were recognized in 2013 as the First Inland Ocean Community in the United States in a formal resolution sponsored by Assembly Member Mark Stones of Monterey, CA, and NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

And what is Colorado’s First Inland Community doing to protect and celebrate one of our favorite resources? COCO has taken charge on several fronts: through education and outreach, political involvement, a scuba diving initiative, creek cleanups, an annual symposium, and bi-monthly networking meetups.

With a grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, COCO’s Ocean Ambassadors Program certifies volunteers as experts on fresh and saltwater issues and solutions. Ocean ambassadors specialize in community service work for marine conservation, managing water pollution and watershed health, and marine sanctuary protection and legislation.

COCO is also part of a Blue the Dive Coalition active in marine sanctuary protection and reef restoration. Participants include eco-resorts, non-profit groups, dive industry members, scientists, and policymakers.

COCO works locally to protect watersheds and restore inland routes to the ocean through creek cleanups with its Stream Team. And by lobbying every other spring in the nation’s capital, COCO also demonstrates to policymakers that Colorado voters are invested in the health of our seas, and ensures that we have a stake in protecting them.

Then there are networking events, like bi-monthly Blue Drinks at various breweries and happy hour venues in Boulder and Golden, in which a portion of the proceeds benefit the Coalition’s work. Blue Drinks brings people together to celebrate their passion for the ocean, and meet others who feel the same way.

For more information about helping with a local creek cleanup, or to join in on the Blue Drinks fun, visit