Over $6M Raised to Save Ellwood Mesa (CA)

GOLETA, Santa Barbara County, CA-The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Friends of the Ellwood Coast (FOTEC) gathered with residents and elected officials on Ellwood Mesa today to announce the success of the $6 million community fundraising campaign to help purchase the 137-acre Ellwood Mesa property, the eastern gateway to the renowned Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County. “We are elated to announce that the community has raised $7 million to date. Once all the local fundraising efforts underway are complete, we hope to reach $8 million,” said Suzanne Moss, TPL’s Campaign Director.

“We shouldn’t be surprised when public minded citizens band together to ensure a glorious future for the next generation. Such was the case with Ellwood Mesa. This is one of the most dramatic conservation campaigns in Santa Barbara County history,” said Larry Crandell, resident of Montecito. Threatened with development, the Ellwood Mesa property is zoned for a large residential subdivision. In January, TPL and FOTEC challenged the community to raise at least $6 million by June 30-TPL’s option agreement expiration date with real estate developers-to demonstrate its commitment to protecting Ellwood Mesa and to leverage the public funding necessary to complete the purchase. Today, because of the successful fundraising effort, the real estate development company, Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners, extended the purchase option agreement with the Trust for Public Land until December 31, 2003.

“More than 3,500 donations from community members have raised more than $7 million toward the total fundraising goal of $20.4 million. The community has given us the best chance ever of protecting a critical part of the Gaviota Coast. We are very grateful to Peter and Stephanie Sperling, Wendy McCaw, and the Goleta Valley Land Trust for their especially generous donations,” said Reed Holderman, Executive Director of the Trust for Public Land-California. “We are continuing to accept private donations because every dollar we raise in the community will help secure the public funding necessary to complete the purchase and protect this incredible property. We are committed to working with local, state, and federal officials to raise the balance of the $20.4 million needed from government grants. Every donor counts and every dollar strengthens our chance of attracting these funds in this highly competitive funding climate.”

“I have seen an unprecedented outpouring of public support for this project and applaud the community on its successful fundraising efforts. Now I will lead the charge in Sacramento to find and commit the funds necessary for the ultimate purchase of this spectacular coastal property,” said State Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson.

A total of $20.4 million in public and private funding must be raised to buy the property. But 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.

In July 2002, TPL entered into an agreement with Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners to acquire the Ellwood Mesa property for permanent protection as public open space. Once TPL’s public and private 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.

“This community is visionary and generous. They have opened their hearts and wallets and worked tirelessly to save Ellwood Mesa. Success is within our reach. We are thankful to Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners for extending our agreement until December 31. We must continue our fundraising efforts as we push into phase two: finding and securing public funding. This is our last chance to save this property. Now is the time,” said Debra Geiler, TPL’s Gaviota Coast Project Director.

“This community has fought for years to prevent development on Ellwood Mesa to protect the sensitive natural resources, including the monarch butterfly aggregation, and to preserve the stunning mountain and ocean views for future generations,” said Kevin Barthel, President of Friends of the Ellwood Coast. “This unique opportunity for the public to acquire this land is at hand.”

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Campaign to Save Ellwood Mesa, the public may call Suzanne Moss at (415)495-5660 ext. 402 or Carla Frisk at (805)350-3811 or send donations to The Trust for Public Land – Ellwood Mesa Campaign, P.O. Box 1244, Goleta, CA 93116.

TPL recently completed a successful campaign to save the 2,500-acre El Capitan Ranch further west along the coast, and transferred the land to the State of California in October as an addition to El Capitan State Beach. In 1997, TPL bought and protected the 70-acre Douglas Family Preserve, also known as the Wilcox property, and donated the prime coastal bluffs to the city of Santa Barbara for public enjoyment.

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 on-line, at www.tpl.org/cal.