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Saved from development! 1200 acres of land in Ventura County with spectacular ocean views preserved

Lance Orozco
The Deer Creek Property which will be part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area includes 1200 acres of land, including more than two miles of coastline.

The Trust for Public Land, donors, and the state came up with $25 million to buy the Deer Creek Property, between the Ventura County line and Mugu Rock.

We’re hiking up a steep hill, to a vista point off of the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s between the Ventura County line and Mugu Rock. On a clear day, the view is spectacular.

But, for decades walking to this spot would be trespassing on private land.

"If you look down one side, you'll see Mugu Rock, and if you look down the other side, you'll see on a clear day all the way to the Palisades (the Pacific Palisades)," said Democratic Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks.

We’re off of Deer Creek Road, on what’s known as the Deer Creek Property. The property is a developer's dream, but the non-profit Trust For Public Land, along with Irwin, and some other groups have engineered a deal to buy, and permanently preserve it.

"This parcel is two miles of beachfront, and 1200 acres," said Irwin. "This is an area that's almost completely undisturbed...when you look at biodiversity, this is biodiversity supercharged."

But, there was nothing easy about the deal to buy the privately owned land.

"The Trust for Public Land, and other conservation organizations have been looking at this property for 20 years," said Guillermo Rodriguez, who is the State Director for the Trust For Public Land.

"We've been knocking on doors, and getting doors slammed on us, people saying they never want to talk to us," he said.

He says it was purchased by a developer decades ago with an eye towards construction of spectacular ocean view homes. But, after he died, it became mired in years of ownership battles. The battle was finally settled with the help of a judge, and the owners agreed to sell.

The Trust for Public Land rallied to come up with the $25 million purchase price. It went to banks and donors. Irwin was able to secure $10 million in state funding towards the total, so the money was in place to do the deal.

Rodriguez says the land will be turned over to the National Park Service, to become a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The deal is sort of a placeholder, securing the land from development until the federal government assumes ownership.

The land has never had a fully biological survey, but everyone involved thinks it will be a treasure trove of everything from mountain lion habitat to rare plants.

"Deer Creek Beach is the last major unprotected, undeveloped (beach) property between Ventura, and the U.S.-Mexico border," said David Szymaski, who is Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

He says he’s grateful to the coalition which came up with the funding to buy the property when the opportunity developed. The Recreation Area will try to work quickly to create parking, and trails to allow public access to some of the land.

While the land has been purchased, the fundraising isn’t quite over. Trust for Public Land officials say while they have the $25 million needed for the Deer Creek property purchase, they are trying to raise $5 million more. They want to give it to the National Park Service so there will be money for creating public access for the property, so we don’t have to wait another 20 years to actually visit it.

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.