Family Pledges $5M to Save Ellwood Mesa (CA)

June 20, 2003
California

GOLETA, CA, 6/20/03- Mr. and Mrs. Peter Sperling have pledged $5 million to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today.

Ellwood Mesa, with its renowned monarch butterfly site and wildlife habitat, is a crucial piece of the Gaviota Coast. As the last undeveloped coastline in Southern California, the spectacular Gaviota Coast is of statewide and national significance.

Mr. Sperling stated, "My wife Stephanie and I are delighted to have this opportunity to join hundreds of other citizens in the community wide effort to preserve Ellwood Mesa as open space for future generations. The Mesa is the gateway to the magnificent Gaviota Coast and is the home of California's largest Monarch butterfly aggregation site. We believe the preservation of the 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."

"The commitment of the Sperling family to land conservation is tremendously inspiring. Their gift guarantees the campaign will meet the immediate June 30th deadline for raising $6 million dollars. This success is a significant factor in helping to ensure that we reach our ultimate goal of saving this property forever," stated Reed Holderman, Executive Director of The Trust for Public Land-California.

To date, more than 3,000 people have contributed to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa. Local volunteers, led by the Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC), have been working around the clock to raise awareness and funds through editorial pieces in the local press, property tours, tabling, art shows, special events, business outreach, and t-shirt sales.

"For over two decades, citizens have fought long and hard to save this special place as a sanctuary for wildlife and a haven for people," said Reed Holderman, "Mr. and Mrs. Sperling indicated that they are able to make this gift in large part because others have created the opportunity to preserve Ellwood Mesa through years of hard work, sweat and tears. The gift is made with a genuine appreciation for all of those efforts."

Kevin Barthel, President of Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC) said, "Never in our wildest dreams did we expect such a large gift from one family. We appreciate the Sperlings' generosity and we are honored by their recognition of the countless hours of the grassroots volunteer efforts over the years."

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.

A strong up-front show of local support is critical to TPL's efforts to secure public funding for this conservation acquisition. TPL has scheduled a press conference for June 27, 2003, to announce the total progress toward the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa, the status of the conservation project, and the remaining financial needs to achieve success.

A total of $20.4 million in private and public funding is needed to purchase and protect Ellwood Mesa from development. Because the value of the property far exceeds the amount of funds that could be raised, the City of Goleta is completing the acquisition package by exchanging 38 inland acres of the adjacent property for the developer's remaining interest in the mesa. Once TPL's fundraising efforts and the City's land exchange are complete, the entire Ellwood Mesa will be transferred to the City of Goleta to be managed in conjunction with the adjacent city park.

"Mr. and Mrs. Sperling's gift will help save a spectacular outdoor classroom, and is helping to give our children the lasting gift of open space. I can't imagine a better investment in our children's future," says Tad Buchanan, a resident of Montecito and local advisor to the Trust for Public Land.

The coastal bluff-top land, currently zoned for a large residential subdivision, overlooks the Pacific Ocean and includes nearly a mile of coastline. Once protected, it will link two publicly owned properties and create nearly 2 1/2 miles of continuous open space beginning at Coal Oil Point Reserve and defining the eastern gateway to the Gaviota Coast.

Mr. and Mrs. Sperling have been strong supporters of land preservation efforts on the Gaviota Coast, including the successful efforts of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County in creating the Arroyo Hondo Preserve and the Trust for Public Land's purchase of 2,500 acres to augment El Capitan Beach State Park. Mr. Sperling, a graduate of UCSB, is founder and chairman of the local Internet telephone service provider, CallWave, Inc.

In recognition of the gift, the Sperling family will be offered the park naming opportunity, when the campaign is successful and the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa is acquired and protected as public open space.

The Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa still needs your financial support to buy and protect Ellwood Mesa forever. To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa, please call TPL's Suzanne Moss at 415/495-5660 ext. 402 or Carla Frisk at 805/350-3811, or Kevin Barthel at FOTEC 805/685-7778, or send donations to The Trust for Public Land - Ellwood Mesa Campaign, P.O. Box 1244, Goleta, CA 93116. For more information on the web go to www.saveellwood.org or www.ellwoodcoast.org.

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.