$4M Grant Approved for Ellwood Mesa (CA)

GOLETA, SANTA BARBARA CO. CA, 2/19/04-The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), at its Sacramento board meeting this morning, approved a $4 million grant toward TPL’s efforts to save the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property, located in the City of Goleta at the gateway to the Gaviota Coast. The WCB grant brings the total funds raised to date for the Ellwood Mesa purchase to more than $13.3 million.

“The preservation of Ellwood Mesa has been a longtime priority for South Coast residents, as well as one of my top priorities,” stated Assembly Member Hannah-Beth Jackson who is a Legislative Advisory Committee member of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “This WCB grant represents a tremendous commitment of state bond funds towards what has already been an extraordinary community effort to preserve the integrity of the undeveloped natural resources and coastal watersheds of Ellwood Mesa, which are significant at the local, state and national levels,” she concluded.

The WCB approved the funds from the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Fund of 2002, Proposition 50, under Section 79572 (a), Chapter 10, Coastal Watershed and Wetland Protection, which provides funds for the acquisition, protection and restoration of coastal wetlands, upland areas adjacent to coastal wetlands, and coastal watershed lands. Subject lands must be in or adjacent to urban areas.

“With its spectacular vernal pools and other upland areas adjacent to Devereux Creek, and its proximity to an urban area, Ellwood Mesa is the perfect fit for these Proposition 50 funds,” stated Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-CA. “We are thrilled to have the cooperative partnership of the WCB on this most worthwhile project. We want to express our appreciation to the WCB Board members for this generous grant and our gratitude to Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson for her unwavering support for the acquisition of Ellwood Mesa,” he concluded.

The Wildlife Conservation Board was created by legislation in 1947 to administer a capital outlay program for wildlife conservation and related public recreation. It is the responsibility of the Board to select, authorize and allocate funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat.

At the eastern gateway to the Gaviota Coast, Ellwood Mesa is part of one of the most significant biological transition zones in the state. This coastal property, located in the City of Goleta, sustains numerous fragile coastal environmental resources, 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, bird watch and to gain access to the beach.

Currently threatened by development, Ellwood Mesa is zoned for residential use. 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. Once acquired, Ellwood Mesa will be transferred to the City of Goleta to be managed together with the remainder of the existing Santa Barbara Shores Park.

For the past three months, over 40,000 thousand Monarch butterflies have clustered on the Eucalyptus groves on the property, as part of their annual over wintering visit to Ellwood Mesa’s Ellwood Main butterfly grove. School children come from all parts of the state, especially at this time, to observe this real life phenomenon up close.

TPL, a national land conservation organization, and its local partner, Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC), launched a private fundraising drive in January of 2003 and are continuing to accept donations towards the purchase. 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.