Campaign Launched to Save Ellwood Mesa (CA)

GOLETA, Santa Barbara County, CA, 1/29/03-The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Friends of the Ellwood Coast, and the City of Goleta gathered with residents and elected officials on Ellwood Mesa today to launch a $6 million community fundraising campaign to help purchase the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property, the eastern gateway to the spectacular Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County. The Goleta Valley Land Trust announced a $500,000 challenge grant to jump-start this fundraising effort.

Threatened with development, the property is currently zoned for a large residential subdivision. The $6 million goal must be met by June 30, 2003 and is critical to TPL’s efforts to secure public funding for the $14.4 million balance of the $20.4 million fundraising goal. 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 38 acres of the adjacent property for the developer’s remaining interest in the mesa.

Wedged between the University of California, Santa Barbara campus and a Goleta city park, the magnificent coastal bluff-top property overlooks the Pacific Ocean and includes an internationally renowned roosting site that supports 60,000 monarch butterflies during their annual winter migration.

“The Goleta community has worked for more than twenty years to protect this property, and now our best chance to save it has finally come,” said Reed Holderman, Executive Director of the Trust for Public Land California. “If we can raise $6 million in private funds locally by June of this year, this community will have demonstrated its undeniable commitment to protecting Ellwood Mesa, and we will be well positioned to leverage the public funding necessary to complete the purchase.”

In July 2002, TPL entered into an agreement with the real estate development company Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners to acquire the Ellwood Mesa property for permanent protection and public enjoyment. Once TPL’s fundraising efforts and the City’s land exchange are complete, the entire Ellwood Mesa will be transfered to the City of Goleta to be managed in conjunction with the adjacent city park.

“Many individuals and organizations have expended Herculean efforts to provide us with the opportunity to acquire the awe-inspiring Ellwood Mesa,” said Goleta Mayor Jack Hawxhurst. “Today we catalyze an unprecedented outpouring of public support for this project and initiate a new phase of fundraising to take us the last steps towards preserving this unique land for the new city and the entire region.”

“We hope our $500,000 challenge grant will jump start community giving at all levels,” said Harriett Phillips of the Goleta Valley Land Trust. “This is a huge fund raising effort, no gift is too small, and we all need to pitch in if we want to see our beloved Ellwood Mesa protected forever,”

“Raising $6 million in private funds on the front end is absolutely crucial to our ability to secure the significant public funds required to save this property. Without strong local support, we will lose this chance we’ve been waiting for to protect this spectacular mesa forever,” said Suzanne Moss, TPL’s Gaviota Coast Campaign Director. “This community is visionary and generous. They have opened their hearts and wallets and worked tirelessly to save the many treasured resources of the coast,” continued Moss. “We are confident once the word gets out that we have created a solution to 20 years of contentious battles, and that this property can be saved – that everyone will give generously to this campaign. This could be our last chance to save this property. Now is the time.”

“This community has fought for years to prevent development on the Ellwood bluffs to protect the sensitive natural resources, including the monarch butterfly aggregation, and to preserve the stunning mountain and ocean views for future generations,” said Kevin Barthel, President of Friends of the Ellwood Coast. “This unique opportunity for the public to acquire this land cannot be missed.”

Former Senator Jack O’Connell and Assembly Member Hannah-Beth Jackson have been instrumental in many land conservation initiatives, including the recently passed Proposition 40, a funding source that could significantly contribute toward the protection of Ellwood Mesa. Former Senator O’Connell also authored the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit Act of 2000, a program through which the developer may donate a portion of the property to TPL in exchange for tax credit.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa, the public may call Suzanne Moss at 415/495-5660 or Carla Frisk at 805/350-3811 or send donations to The Trust for Public Land – Ellwood Mesa Campaign, P.O. Box 1244, Goleta, CA 93116.

TPL recently completed a successful campaign to save the 2,500-acre El Capitan Ranch further west along the coast and transferred the land to the State of California in October as an addition to El Capitan State Beach. In 1997 TPL bought and protected the 70-acre Douglas Family Preserve, also known as the Wilcox property, and donated the prime coastal bluffs to the city of Santa Barbara for public enjoyment.

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