Caring for the coast: Del Mar teen starts non-profit to restore habitat

Volunteers at work on Native Del Mar's restoration project on the Del Mar Bluffs.

On Feb. 27 Del Mar teenager Tyden Chinowsky led a replanting effort at the Del Mar Bluffs at Anderson Canyon, an area that he had carefully restored and brought new life last year.

What started as Tyden’s Bar Mitzvah project has now grown into a nonprofit organization called Native Del Mar that he runs with his father Steve. The nonprofit’s mission is to rehabilitate and protect native plants, wildlife and open spaces in Del Mar.

“I’ve always been passionate about Torrey pine trees and the bluffs where I live,” said Tyden, himself a Del Mar native.

Tyden Chinowsky

When he was just 13 years old, Tyden presented his habitat restoration proposal to the City of Del Mar through its Adopt-A-Spot program. In his comments, he shared his concerns about the recent decline in Del Mar’s Torrey pine trees, the rare, iconic and “artistic trees shaped by the wind” that keep coastal cliffs from eroding. The area he had picked for his preservation work was the bluffs off Camino Del Mar, near the red-tailed hawk carved out of a dead Torrey pine with scenic views of Torrey Pines State Beach.

Prior to Tyden’s love and care, the area was filled with non-native ice plant and he had often noticed the neglected spot on his way to surf at the beach. To help save the trees and rehabilitate the Del Mar Bluffs, he proposed removing invasive species, installing a sustainable irrigation system for the plants until they were mature enough to survive on their own and creating pathways for people to meander through.

“We will not only restore a part of our coastal sage scrub community and help prevent coastal erosion, but we will have created a peaceful, natural space where members of our community can walk, relax, unwind and contemplate the wonders of life,” Tyden told City Council in his presentation.

It took Tyden a year to make it through the permitting and approval process with the city and Coastal Commission.

Once approved, they worked with the city to extend an irrigation line to the site and called on native landscaper Jeremy Spath to select just the right plants for the area—the Chinowskys purchased and planted over 270 native plants including Torrey pines, Shaw agaves and the very rare Del Mar manzanita.

Tyden Chinowsky got help from fellow Francis Parker students at the Feb. 27 replanting event.

About 100 yards of soil was used to replenish the area and KRC Rock transported several large boulders from Public Works to add more visual interest.

The work was completed in January 2020 and over the past year, the Chinowskys developed the nonprofit with the goal to continue to protect and preserve their community: “We’re committed to continue to maintain it, it’s not a one-time project,” Steve said.

Due to the pandemic, the Chinowskys said so many more people are getting outside and walking the bluffs and the area was in need of a refresh. The Feb. 27 update included plantings of native sages, Shaw agave and lemonade berry from Native West Nursery down by the Mexican border.

Steve and Tyden, now a 14-year-old freshman at Francis Parker school, recruited some of Tyden’s friends to help with the work along with Spath, a friend’s dad and the family dog Rosie. They handed out hats and t-shirts to the volunteers to help spread the word about Native Del Mar’s mission. As it states on the organization’s website: “If we don’t protect that natural beauty and diversity of plant and wildlife we could lose all the wonder and magic that brought us here in the first place.”

The Chinowskys are just now starting to solicit donations to support their work. Eventually, Native Del Mar would like to continue habitat rehabilitations further to the south. “It’s a really large area and there’s still so much ice plant,” said Tyden, who also has an idea to add a bench with a chess table for people to sit and enjoy and contemplate just how lucky they are to live here.

To learn more, visit