Ellwood Mesa Protection Celebrated (CA)

GOLETA, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, 3/4/05–CA. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the City of Goleta, and Friends of the Ellwood Coast, along with federal, state, and local elected officials, government agencies, philanthropists, community members and local schoolchildren, will gather on Ellwood Mesa today, March 4 to celebrate the public protection of the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property. The celebration marks the successful completion of the 30-year effort to protect the much-loved mesa. The City of Goleta assumed official public ownership of the property on February 4. The property has been officially renamed The Sperling Preserve. The Trust for Public Land will designate the Ellwood West grove of the new Sperling Preserve “The California Grove” in honor of Hannah-Beth Jackson’s inspired leadership and unwavering dedication to preserving Ellwood Mesa as a living legacy for the people of California.

“This day represents the culmination of an heroic effort by this community, the generosity of private donors from all over California and a strong commitment to coastal protection at the local, state and federal government levels,” stated Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-CA. “As we celebrate, TPL is continuing to work with our partners to protect other properties along the Gaviota Coast-Southern California’s last large undeveloped coastline.”

In early January, TPL announced that it had reached its $20.4 million goal when an anonymous donor closed the gap by donating the final $307,000. Less than two weeks later, the California Coastal Commission approved the land swap portion of the acquisition and the Comstock Homes development plan.

On January 29, 2003, TPL and its local partner, Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC), launched a private fundraising drive with an initial challenge grant from the Goleta Valley Land Trust of $500,000, followed by an additional $500,000 later that year. A $1 million grant from the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation was announced in May 2003, followed by a $5 million pledge from Peter and Stephanie Sperling in June 2003. All told, nearly $9 million from individuals and foundation had been raised by the community.

“My wife Stephanie and I are delighted to have this opportunity to help preserve Ellwood Mesa as open space for future generations,” stated Mr. Sperling. “We believe the preservation of Ellwood Mesa’s sensitive habitats and open space is essential, and my family is pleased to do our part to help protect this unique portion of the coast from development.”

Mr. And Mrs. Sperling expressed that they were honored to make this gift because of the thousands of people who have contributed to this effort and the many people who have fought for decades to defend the mesa from development.

In December of 2003, the County of Santa Barbara stepped up to the plate and awarded the project a $368,000 Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund grant, which would later be followed by an additional $400,000 grant. In addition, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Congresswoman Lois Capps helped to secure nearly $800,000 in federal Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program Funds.

“Congratulations to the Trust for Public Land, the Friends of the Ellwood Coast and the City of Goleta for their successful efforts to preserve the beautiful 137-acre property of the Ellwood Mesa,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). These lands have such rich plant and wildlife, including some 60,000 migratory butterflies, and now Ellwood Mesa and its scenic coast will be preserved for many generations to come.”

“As a community, we have a sacred duty to make sure our spectacular and rare natural resources are maintained for generations to come. The acquisition of Ellwood Mesa will guarantee that this environmental and scenic jewel remains available for our residents and tourists to walk, jog, or bird watch for years to come,” Congresswoman Capps said. “This project truly represents a federal partnership with both the private sector and state and local governments as we celebrate reaching our goal of preserving and protecting this magnificent property.”

In 2004, with the strong leadership of then-Assembly Member Hannah-Beth Jackson, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the State Coastal Conservancy and Caltrans cumulatively contributed $10.5 million to ensure the success of the project.

“The protection of Ellwood Mesa stands as a model public-private conservation partnership. The community knew what it wanted and put its money on the table,” stated Al Wright, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “The assemblage of several plant communities and habitats for many wildlife species, including the butterfly, made this a worthwhile project.”

“The Conservancy is proud to partner with all the local residents who gave millions of dollars to make this happen,” stated Sam Schuchat, the Conservancy’s Executive Officer. “This was a terrific opportunity to add nearly a mile to the California Coastal Trail and preserve a glorious piece of our coast.”

Ellwood Mesa is located at the eastern gateway to the Gaviota Coast, one of the most significant biological transition zones in the world. This property maintains numerous environmentally sensitive coastal resources onsite, including monarch butterfly habitat, vernal pools and native grasslands. In addition, it is a cherished community asset and is used by local residents to walk, jog, bike, horseback ride, and 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 1.9 million acres nationwide. The public can find more information about TPL and the Ellwood Mesa property and campaign on-line, at www.tpl.org/cal.