$367K Grant Approved for Ellwood Mesa (CA)

SANTA BARBARA CO. CA, 12/8/2003-The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a $367,963 grant from the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund towards TPL’s efforts to save the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property, the gateway to the Gaviota Coast, in Goleta. This brings the total funds raised to date to $8 million.

“Purchasing Ellwood Mesa for protection in perpetuity has been a long standing priority for the Goleta Valley,” stated Supervisor Gail Marshall who has championed the protection of the spectacular coastal bluff top property for years. “Approval of this significant CREF grant is clearly an affirmation of the priceless habitat on Ellwood Mesa, as well as its value as a haven for people. I am pleased that the Board of Supervisors voted to approve this grant.” she concluded.

Located on the Gaviota Coast, Ellwood Mesa is currently zoned for residential use. In July 2002, TPL entered into an agreement with Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners to acquire the much-beloved Ellwood Mesa property for permanent protection as public open space. Once acquired, Ellwood Mesa will be transferred to the City of Goleta and will be maintained and operated in conjunction with the remainder of the existing Santa Barbara Shores Park.

“The approval of this CREF grant is so very important to our efforts to save Ellwood Mesa for two reasons,” stated Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-CA. “By approving such a significant grant for Ellwood Mesa, the County of Santa Barbara has become a partner in our efforts. This is the first public funds grant we have received for this project and we are grateful for the continued local commitment to this project.”

A total of $20.4 million in public and private funding must be raised to purchase the property and make it available to the public. But because $20.4 million is only a portion of the estimated value of the mesa, the City of Goleta is completing the acquisition package by exchanging 36 acres of the adjacent property for the developer’s remaining interest in the mesa.

Earlier this year, TPL and its local partner, Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC), launched a private fundraising drive to raise as much private funding as possible. The community successfully reached the private support goal by raising $7 million by June 30, including generous gifts from the Goleta Valley Land Trust, the Peter and Stephanie Sperling family and the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation. The Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa is still accepting donations for the purchase.

“Friends of the Ellwood Coast is extremely pleased San Barbara Board of Supervisors kicked off the first public funding to Save Ellwood Mesa with this grant from the local CREF funds. The 5-0 Board of Supervisors vote speaks volumes about how important the Save Ellwood Mesa Project is to Santa Barbara County residents and visitors,” said Kevin Barthel, president of Friends of the Ellwood Coast.

The Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund was set up in 1988 to alleviate the adverse impacts of offshore oil and gas development on coastal resources and can only be used for this purpose. Since 1988, over $14 million in CREF grants has been approved by the County Board of Supervisors.

Ellwood Mesa is the gateway to the Gaviota Coast, one of the most significant biological transition zones in the world. Consistent with the use of CREF funds, this coastal property maintains numerous environmentally sensitive coastal resources onsite, including monarch butterfly habitat, vernal pools and native grasslands and roosting and foraging for numerous resident and migratory raptors, including the White-tailed kite. The property is a cherished community asset and is used by local residents to walk, jog, bike, horseback ride, bird watch and to gain access to the beach.

TPL is a national land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, wilderness areas and natural, historic and cultural resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide.

The public can find more information about TPL and the Ellwood Mesa property and campaign on-line, at www.tpl.org/cal. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to save Ellwood Mesa can contact Carla Frisk at (805) 350-3811 or send checks to the Trust for Public Land, Ellwood Mesa Campaign, P. O. Box 1244, Goleta, CA 93116.