Coastal Dune Habitat Protected (CA)

LOS OSOS, 11/21/02 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance (MEGA) announced today the protection of 40 acres of rare coastal dune habitat in the town of Los Osos adjacent to Los Osos Middle School in San Luis Obispo County. TPL purchased the property and then transferred it to the California Department of Parks and Recreation to be protected and enjoyed for generations to come as part of Morro Bay State Park. The $1.5 million purchase protects a portion of the Morro Bay dune ecosystem and builds on the work of TPL, MEGA and many local, state and federal partners to create the Morro Bay Dunes Greenbelt, a community initiated effort to create a habitat and trail corridor of over a 1,000 acres connecting Montana de Oro State Park and Morro Bay State Park.

“TPL commends all our partners for their tremendous work helping to make this greenbelt a reality,” says Margaret Eadington, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land. Our partners in the greenbelt include the CA Dept. of Fish & Game, the CA Wildlife Conservation Board, the CA State Coastal Conservancy, the CA Dept. of Parks & Recreation, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, the Morro Estuary Greenbelt Alliance, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, and The Bay Foundation. “As partners, we continue to work together year after year, piece by piece, to achieve the goal of a fully connected greenbelt.” MEGA and TPL will be hosting a celebration for this acquisition next month on December 5th at 11am near Los Osos Middle School.

“The purchase of this critical habitat protects endangered species and helps preserve the Central Coast’s natural beauty. I am proud to help leave this legacy for our children,” says state Senator Jack O’Connell (D-San Luis Obispo) who co-authored the Coastal Resources Grant legislation which helped fund this acquisition. “Protecting Morro Bay’s beautiful landscapes is vital for the environment and important for our economy,” says state Assemblyman Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria). “The Central Coast’s tourist industry thrives on the protection of our spectacular natural resources.”

Morro Bay ranks as a top ten bird sanctuary across the nation each year by the Audubon Society. It was also accepted into the National Estuary Program in 1995 by the Environmental Protection Agency due to its diverse and significant, yet imperiled resources. The property is home to several endangered and threatened plant and animal species found only within the Morro Bay watershed, including the endangered Morro shoulderband snail, the threatened Morro manzanita, and the sensitive Morro blue butterfly. The public ownership of the property protects these species, their habitat and the open space that still surrounds the community of Los Osos. The property also contains significant archeological resources including ancient middens of the Chumash Native American people.

MEGA has worked with the adjacent Los Osos Middle School to start up the Earth Club, a science curriculum involving native plant restoration of coastal dune habitat. The students learn about, propagate and plant native dune vegetation in their backyard classroom on State Park lands. The purchase of this 40-acre parcel will expand the dune restoration area and provide access for the kids to Los Osos Creek, offering additional education value.

“This land is a beautiful place, it draws us in, where we discover truths and gain solace. We are truly surrounded by a treasure in our own backyards. We often don’t know what is precious until we are about to lose it. We have the vision to protect these dunes for all our children. I am particularly grateful to the Powells for their willingness to listen to the effort to preserve this property and to all the Friends of MEGA who have worked so hard,” says Marla Morrissey, president of MEGA. “We are thrilled to add this property to Morro Bay State Park. This acquisition further enhances State Parks’ fulfillment of its mission to protect sensitive biological and cultural resources while providing for open space and outdoor recreational opportunities to the public. This is particularly important at the interface between urban and park lands, where open space increases the ecological health of both the community and wildlife.,” says District Superintendent Kirk Sturm of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

TPL, a nonprofit land conservation organization based in California, is partnering with MEGA and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program in a large scale effort to preserve the Morro Bay ecosystem. The Morro Bay Dunes Greenbelt will provide vital connections between existing public open space in the Morro Bay watershed. TPL has already participated in two other projects in the Greenbelt including Powell I, now part of Morro Bay State Park, and Morro Palisades, now called the Morro Dunes Ecological Reserve owned by the Dept. of Fish & Game.

MEGA, founded in 1998, is dedicated to the protection of lands surrounding the community of Los Osos in consideration of their biological value and scenic quality. MEGA actively seeks funding to purchase property from willing sellers and to empower the cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies to create an area-wide greenbelt.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit land conservation organization that works to conserve land for people as parks, gardens, playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected thousands of acres along California’s central coast including the Estero Bay property also in San Luis Obispo County and the El Capitan Ranch in Santa Barbara County.