Land Trust Pledges $1M for Ellwood Mesa (CA)

GOLETA, SANTA BARBARA CO. CA, 8/21/2003-The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the Goleta Valley Land Trust (GVLT) has pledged an additional $500,000 to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa in the effort to purchase and protect the 137-acre coastal bluff top property. The GVLT helped launch the fundraising campaign last January by offering an initial challenge grant of $500,000, which has been met. This second pledge brings the GVLT’s total donation for this project to $1 million.

“The magnificence of Ellwood Mesa, with its sweeping ocean views, vernal pools, native grasslands and critical monarch butterfly groves can never be overstated,” said Harriett Phillips, President of the Goleta Valley Land Trust. “This once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire it, and the incredible community efforts over the past six months, has motivated the Goleta Valley Land Trust to double its commitment towards the purchase of Ellwood Mesa,” she added.

Earlier this year, TPL and its local partner, Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC), launched a private fundraising drive. The community successfully reached the private support goal by raising $7 million by June 30, including generous gifts from the Peter and Stephanie Sperling family and Wendy McCaw. This recent GVLT grant brings the total raised by private citizens to $7.5 million.

The Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa is now launching phase two to secure the government grants necessary to reach the total fundraising goal of $20.4 million. However, 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. The GVLT Board has made this second grant of $500,000 to help the efforts to attract and secure local, state, and federal government funds.

“We are incredibly grateful to the GVLT Board members for their vision, leadership and generosity,” said Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-CA. “The news of this $500,000 grant couldn’t come at a better time for our representatives and colleagues in Sacramento and Washington D.C. trying to secure government funds. This is a difficult time to secure government funds and the more local funds we bring to the project, the better.”

Although the widely publicized campaign closed on June 30, TPL and FOTEC are still soliciting funds. The Campaign hopes to reach the $8 million mark for private support and is, therefore, continuing its fundraising efforts through the end of the year.

“The residents of the South Coast owe a debt of gratitude to the Goleta Valley Land Trust for taking a leadership role in the campaign to save Ellwood Mesa,” said Kevin Barthel, President of Friends of the Ellwood Coast. “Just as the GVLT kicked off our fundraising drive with its initial $500,000, its second gift will make it even more possible to hit our mark. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Several local foundations have also donated to the Campaign. Most recently, the Andrew H. Burnett Foundation pledged $30,000 and the Hutton Foundation pledged $25,000 towards the effort, with local philanthropist Pierre Claeyssens in mind.

“We were incredibly pleased when the Sperling Family graciously designated $500,000 of their total pledge towards naming a meadow in honor of Pierre Claeyssens,” stated Tom Parker, President of the Hutton Foundation. “Mr. Claeyssens is an extraordinary individual and has given generously to a multitude of causes in our community. Not only does the Hutton Foundation want to be part of saving this very special property, but it also wants to acknowledge this very special person in our community.”

Located on the Gaviota Coast, Ellwood Mesa is currently zoned for residential use. With urging from the community, in July of 2002, TPL struck a deal with real estate developer Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development partners to acquire the property. On June 27th, the developers signed a six month extension to that option agreement.

In addition to local environmentalists and philanthropists, elected officials and business leaders, including the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, are supporting the purchase of the Ellwood Mesa property, which will ultimately be owned by the City of Goleta.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to save Ellwood Mesa can contact Carla Frisk at (805) 350-3811 or send checks to the Trust for Public Land, Ellwood Mesa Campaign, P. O. Box 1244, Goleta, CA 93116. Checks can be earmarked for the Pierre Claeyssens Meadow by writing “Pierre Claeyssens naming” on the envelope or check.

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 online, at