Campaign Saves El Capitan Ranch (CA)

SANTA BARBARA, CA, 7/2/02-The seven-week campaign to raise $500,000 from the Santa Barbara community by June 30 to buy the 2,500-acre El Capitan Ranch was a tremendous success, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today. The campaign capped a two-year effort to acquire and protect a remarkable stretch of Santa Barbara’s Gaviota Coast. TPL struck a deal with landowners Chuck Blitz and Roger Himovitz last year to buy the property, valued at $12 million, to preserve a critical wildlife corridor and recreation link between El Capitan State Beach and the Los Padres National Forest.

By May of this year the majority of the acquisition funds were raised. TPL had just seven weeks to close the gap and raise the remaining $500,000 from the Santa Barbara community. Within days of launching the campaign, Pierre Claeyssens, a well-known local philanthropist offered a $250,000 challenge grant to jump-start the effort and encourage others to contribute. The response was tremendous – nearly 300 Santa Barbara area residents made donations, including a $40,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. Additionally, TPL received several donations from outside California, speaking to the tremendous importance of protecting the Gaviota Coast. With just days left in the campaign, Santa Barbara area residents Peter and Stephanie Sperling agreed to make a $110,000 donation to ensure the $250,000 challenge grant was matched in a successful end to the short campaign.

Mr. Sperling, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, is founder and chairman of the local Internet telephone service provider CallWave, Inc. He stated, “My wife, Stephanie, and I are very pleased to have the opportunity to make this important final contribution for the preservation of our precious Gaviota Coast. This significant addition to El Capitan Beach State Park will improve recreation opportunities, including an inland trail system, for the public. The Gaviota Coast is a spectacular and unique landscape which must be preserved in its rural nature for future generations.”

“We are especially grateful to Mr. Pierre Claeyssens, Mr. and Mrs. Sperling, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the many individuals whose contributions made this campaign a success. Their support for this conservation project has helped link the ocean to the mountains and the mountains to the Santa Ynez Valley, thus ensuring access to many incredible vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands for generations to come. The tremendous leadership of TPL’s local advisors and donors Jean Schuyler, Chris Corpuz, and Greg Archbald were invaluable to the campaign’s success,” said David Wheelan, Acting Program Director, Trust for Public Land.

“This is a beloved stretch of coast. I used to keep a swimsuit in my car and swim off El Capitan State Beach on my way to and from my offices in Lompoc and Santa Monica, where I worked as an architect. And now, decades later, I’m proud to be involved in its protection. I appreciate what we have here and believe in preserving open spaces for our children.” says Pierre Claeyssens.

“I am thrilled with the community’s enthusiastic and generous response to the urgent need to protect El Capitan Ranch. It speaks volumes about the importance of the Gaviota Coast and this community’s willingness to protect it, I am proud to be part of such a worthy effort,” said Chris Corpuz, TPL-California Advisory Board Member, CFO of Olympius Capital, and Santa Barbara resident.

“The Santa Barbara Foundation is very pleased to have participated in the community effort to purchase El Capitan Ranch. The Trust for Public Land, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara and the many individuals whose generosity lead the preservation of this remarkable piece of property are to be commended,” said Chuck Slosser, President and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Jack O’Connell and Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson; public funding for the purchase included $5 million from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. We were also grateful to receive $3 million in grants from the State Coastal Conservancy, and $1 million from CalTrans through a Transportation Enhancement Activities grant. In addition, the landowners made a contribution of $2.5 million in land value.

In addition to protecting the 2,500-acre El Capitan Ranch through their work with TPL, the landowners are donating to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County a conservation easement restricting development on the 650 acres of the ranch they have retained in private ownership. The conservation easement, expected to be finalized in the next three months, will allow for agricultural use of the privately held land, continued use of the developed horse ranch and private El Capitan campground, and the construction of a maximum of two additional homes on this 650 acres.

Once owned by Texaco, El Capitan Ranch includes 11 miles of hiking trails with panoramic views. The ranch’s protection will augment the recreational opportunities found in the nearby state parks and national forest. The acquisition will create both a public trail and a habitat corridor stretching from the ocean to the mountains.Although El Capitan Ranch is TPL’s first acquisition on the Gaviota Coast, TPL is familiar to Santa Barbara residents as the organization that bought and protected the 70-acre Douglas Family Preserve, also known as the Wilcox property. TPL then donated the prime coastal bluffs to the city of Santa Barbara in 1997.

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 1.4 million acres nationwide. For more information find TPL on-line at