Caltrans Grants $500K for Ellwood Mesa (CA)

SANTA BARBARA CO. CA, 12/12/2003-The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the California Transportation Commission has granted $500,000 from Caltrans’ Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program to the City of Goleta for the purchase and protection of the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property. The grant, the third announced this week toward the Ellwood Mesa acquisition, brings the total funds raised to date to $8.6 million.

“The approval of this grant is so very important to our efforts to save Ellwood Mesa,” stated Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-CA. “By approving such a significant grant for Ellwood Mesa, the State of California has become a partner in our efforts. This is the first State funds grant we have received for this project and we hope the state will continue to support the Ellwood acquisition as they consider our other grant requests.”

The Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP) was established by the California Legislature in 1989. It offers a total of $10 million each year for grants to local, state, and federal governmental agencies and to nonprofit organizations for projects to mitigate the environmental impacts caused by new or modified state transportation facilities. State gasoline tax monies fund the EEMP.

“This grant of $500,000 is a very important first step in the State’s commitment to the protection of the Ellwood Mesa. The public outpouring of support, nearly $8 million in private funds, and the recent public grants, will help me in my efforts to persuade those in Sacramento to provide the final $8 million necessary to purchase this spectacular coastal property,” said State Assembly Member Hannah-Beth Jackson.

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.

Last month, thousands of Monarch butterflies began to arrive for their annual visit to Ellwood Mesa’s Ellwood Main butterfly grove. December and January are ideal months to visit the Monarchs as they cluster on many of the trees in the mesa’s Eucalyptus groves. The site is often visited by schoolchildren from all over the state so they can observe this real life phenomenon up close. Butterfly enthusiasts report that the numbers of butterflies visiting the grove this year have increased significantly over last year.

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 week TPL announced two other grants toward the purchase of Ellwood Mesa, a $367,963 county Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund grant and a $75,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. This week, TPL’s Ellwood Mesa acquisition received a total of $942,000.In January, 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.

Ellwood Mesa is the gateway to the Gaviota Coast, one of the most significant biological transition zones in the world. 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 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.