As president of Heal the Bay, I was lucky enough to work with Dusty Peak a lot over the years. Dusty, who passed away Aug. 17, was the personification of old Malibu. He was a guy who worked and played hard — a consummate waterman. What impressed me most about Dusty was his passion for environmental protection. He realized that showing up at council meetings and hearings was not enough to protect coastal water quality and natural resources. When he showed up, he made sure that he was heard, always in his trademark loud boardshorts and sneaks. He was a guy you could count on, even for the most obscure and inconvenient hearings.
He spoke passionately and forcefully for our right to clean water and he didn’t give a damn whether or not his position was popular in the community. Earlier this year at a hearing at Malibu High on new proposed statewide septic system regulations, he surprised me by speaking out for tough septic regulations, even though every other Malibu resident there that night argued against the regs.
Dusty didn’t take what he heard or read at face value. On many occasions, he came up to me with a slew of difficult and technical questions, be it water quality at Surfrider, the ongoing sewage debacle at Paradise Cove, or, most recently, potential options for Marine Protected Areas in Malibu, especially at his beloved Point. Usually, eyes glaze over in a matter of minutes when I start talking about sewage, stormwater and the health impacts of swimming in polluted water, but not with Dusty. He always had three follow-up questions after any of my answers.
His enthusiasm and passion for environmental issues helped inspire my work at Heal the Bay. The lack of measurable progress in Malibu has been one of Heal the Bay’s biggest frustrations, so periodic shots of adrenalin from Dusty were just what I needed to keep fighting the fight by his side. He firmly believed that his staph infection could be traced to swimming or surfing in polluted water. He did everything he could to make sure that there were no more health victims of ocean pollution in Malibu.
I hope the city of Malibu can create a fitting and lasting tribute to Dusty. Renaming BKR or Little Dume Outers as Dusty’s Reef comes to mind. Clearly the outpouring of love, emotion and tears at Dusty’s memorial service Sunday by hundreds of people gathered at Westward Beach demonstrated what he has meant to Malibu for over four decades.