Piedras Blancas Bluffs Now Part of CA State Park

San Francisco, CA, 4/9/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the California Department of Parks and Recreation announced today the permanent public protection of the 20-acre coastal bluff known as Piedras Blancas. In May 2005, The Trust for Public Land acquired the property to prevent expanded development and provide immediate coastal access to the public. On March 21, 2007, Piedras Blancas was conveyed into public ownership. It will be managed by California State Parks for recreation, visitor education, wildlife habitat, and scenic resources.

Piedras Blancas is one of very few places along an 18-mile stretch of the famed Hearst coastline where visitors can safely pull off the highway, park in a lot, and walk down a paved path to the beach. For 50 years, Piedras Blancas was a privately owned resort including a motel, caf?, gift shop, and gas station. Located just seven miles north of Hearst Castle, it was the only facility serving visitors along the stretch of highway between Ragged Point and San Simeon. Now State Parks has the opportunity to provide much needed public facilities including an interpretive center on the area’s natural history and the elephant seals populating its beaches, improved restrooms, a deli/caf?, and potential for a hostel and camping.

“The natural beauty of California’s Central Coast seashore is world-renowned, and this partnership guarantees that the entire 18-mile, oceanside strip formerly owned by the Hearst family will be preserved for years to come,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said.

“As a community, we have a sacred duty to make sure our spectacular and rare natural resources are maintained for future generations,” said U.S. Congresswoman Lois Capps. “Protecting this land has guaranteed this scenic jewel remains available for our residents and tourists for years to come.”

Senator Feinstein and Congresswoman Capps worked to secure federal funding to help purchase Piedras Blancas.

“Having public ownership of this extraordinary resource is a golden opportunity for the people of California,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “Piedras Blancas is a critical addition to San Simeon State Park for its numerous public benefits.”

When Piedras Blancas’ owners decided to sell their land in 2005, the property’s future-and access to its coastal bluff and beaches-was unknown. After several attempted transactions, the California State Coastal Conservancy asked The Trust for Public Land for help in February 2005. TPL stepped in to purchase the property, using a loan from the Packard Foundation. For the next two years, TPL worked to assemble the $5.1 million purchase price needed to convey the property into public ownership.

Funding partners included a mix of federal and state agencies including the State Coastal Conservancy, California State Parks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, and the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program administered through Caltrans.

“Piedras Blancas now belongs to the public, thanks to some visionary partners,” says Reed Holderman, Western Regional director of the Trust for Public Land-California. “Without the leadership of the State Coastal Conservancy, essential interim support from the Packard Foundation, and help from Senator Feinstein, Representative Capps, and Assemblyman Blakeslee, the incredible resources at Piedras Blancas might have been lost forever to the public.”

“There’s so much potential for public benefit on Piedras Blancas,” says Sam Schuchat, executive director of the Coastal Conservancy, which pledged $2.3 million in state funding for the protection of the property and $230,000 for interim property management costs. “We applaud TPL for stepping in and helping rescue this property until public funds could be secured to transfer the property into public ownership. It is also an essential missing piece along the California Coastal Trail.”

“NOAA has been pleased to support the implementation of the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program since its creation by Congress in 2002,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbaucher Jr.. To date, funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) has helped to preserve more than 21,500 coastal acres, including Piedras Blancas. “The CELCP Program’s objective — to acquire land or other interests in land in coastal and estuarine areas with significant ecological, conservation, historic, aesthetic, or recreation values — was clearly met by the purchase of the Piedras Blancas property.”

Piedras Blancas is completely surrounded by the Hearst property, which was protected in early 2005 when the State of California purchased development rights on much of 82,000 acres of Hearst land east of Highway One and acquired 13 miles of shoreline west of the highway. Most of this stretch is difficult to access due to a lack of pull-outs, parking areas and trails. Piedras Blancas provides the public one of very few safe access points for stopping along the highway to enjoy the spectacular coast. The property is perfectly situated for hiking along the bluffs and beaches to the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse and on to the elephant seal rookery located three miles south.

Public hearings will help determine the management of the entire San Simeon coast including Piedras Blancas. State Parks is scheduling the next public hearing in early summer 2007. Possibilities include the creation of environmentally friendly campsites and renovating the existing buildings into a visitor’s center, caf?, and low-cost accommodations.

This effort brought together a team of dedicated people committed to a shared vision,” said Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee. “The result is that Piedras Blancas will become a destination for Californians and visitors from around the world.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national, nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to preserving land of recreational, ecological, and historical value for the public. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has protected nearly 2 million acres valued at more than $3.5 billion nationwide.