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What a view! Santa Barbara County gets spectacular new land preserve, expanding existing holdings

The view from the Land Trust For Santa Barbara County's new Gaviota Overlook.
Lance Orozco
The view from the Land Trust For Santa Barbara County's new Gaviota Overlook.

The Land Trust For Santa Barbara County used the opportunity to buy the land on the Gaviota Coast, but now needs community help to pay for it.

We’re standing just off of Highway 101, on the Gaviota Coastline. We’re on a little dirt road, north of the highway. Up above us are the Santa Ynez Mountains, green and lush after the recent rain. Then, you turn around to the south, and there’s a spectacular view of the ocean.

The piece of land we’re on about 30 miles west of Santa Barbara is a brand new nature preserve, called the Gaviota Overlook.

"This is a piece of property that was owned privately that the land trust is conserving," said Meredith Hendricks, who's the Executive Director of The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. "There's a need for more conservation along Gaviota."

She said this is spectacular world class habitat for wildlife habitat, as well as for recreation.

This newly purchased chunk of land is known as the Gaviota Overlook. It's adjacent to the Trust’s existing Arroyo Hondo Preserve. It adds about 50 acres to the current preserve's nearly 800 acres.

But, what’s spectacular about this land is the view. To really experience it, you have to go up into the foothills.

Arroyo Hondo Preserve Manager John Warner loaded us into a four wheel drive vehicle. Soon, we’re headed up a trail so steep it would make a goat nervous. We reach a little plateau, where we stop. The view is incredible.

"The freeway is just below us, but if you sit down low enough, that's out of the view," said Warner. "What's straight in front of us is Santa Rosa Island, and you can see Santa Cruz Island to the left, and San Miguel just to the right. If you are lucky, you can see dolphins, and whales, and birds like red-tail hawks."

Warner says the idea is people will eventually be able to visit the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, and walk over to this new addition. The new land will provide an easily accessible ocean view that's not currently available at Arroyo Hondo.

The Land Trust’s Lands Program Manager Leslie Chan says they will develop a plan which will balance protecting the land while allowing public access.

"As this property is being protected, we are studying the biological and environmental resources that it has," said Chan. She said that information will help with development of a plan.

The Gaviota Overlook is intended to be a Valentine's Day gift to the community.

Katie Szabo is the trust's Marketing And Communications Director. She says there is a little catch to the gift. The Trust dipped into a special reserve fund to buy the property, because it was the first time in 15 years something like this became available.

It paid $3 million for the property. But, the non-profit now needs to replenish that fund.

"We're hoping the community will buy into the project," said Szabo. "We're looking to get $750,000 from the public." They will also apply for county and state grants to help with the purchase.

While it may be a few years before the public gets the chance to visit this incredible new preserve, thanks to the Land Trust it will be preserved forever in its natural state.

How you can help with the new Gaviota Overlook.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.