Our History

What is a Keeper?

The Keeper concept dates back to a 19th century English tradition in which “river keepers” were wardens of private streams, assuring that the waters were healthy, well-stocked and free of poachers. In 1983, fisherman John Cronin founded the Hudson Riverkeeper to find out what was destroying the fish populations and stop it. Largely due to the efforts of the Hudson Riverkeeper, the Hudson River was the first American waterway considered restored to its natural state.

Today, there are over 300 "Keeper" programs throughout the world. Each Keeper is a non-profit corporation with its own Board of Directors. The programs, projects, and agenda are established solely by the Keeper and the Board. Learn more about the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Bringing a Keeper to Orange County

Orange County native Garry Brown remembers abundant abalone, catching bonito and barracuda from the piers and inside the harbors, and digging for clams along the beach in Newport as a young boy. Realizing that his sons could not enjoy the same harbors and near shore waters as he had, Garry founded Orange County Coastkeeper in March of 1999. Orange County Coastkeeper was the 27th Keeper program to be licensed in the U.S. As Executive Director, Mr. Brown has built Coastkeeper into an effective, proactive organization that makes a difference.

Coastkeeper has a full-time staff of dedicated and productive people. The funds that support Coastkeeper are generated from private foundation grants, government program grants, and donations from private individuals and corporations.

For our 10th anniversary, we have assembled a list of Coastkeeper's accomplishments since 1999. Many of our activities are complex; and the average "person on the street" often is not aware that certain issues, processes or regulations even exist. Therefore, it is difficult to explain the time and effort we've invested, as well as the significance of our consistent involvement-but we're going to try!

Check out our 10 years of accomplishments report

Orange County Coastkeeper Celebrating 10 Years
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Coastkeeper History

"Keepers do what we do because we recognize that nature enriches us…aesthetically and recreationally, culturally, and spiritually, and historically. It connects us to our history, and to who we are as a people, to the common bond that we have as Americans. When we destroy nature, we diminish ourselves and we impoverish our children."
-Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Founder and President of the Waterkeeper Alliance


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