You hear a mix of nature, and man in some wetlands near UC Santa Barbara.
There’s the chirping of birds, the wind blowing through brush, and the sound of earth movers off in the dance.
Usually, the sound of earthmovers around wetlands is a bad thing for the environment, because it means development is taking away a slice of nature. But, bulldozers are going to be moving here on UCSB’s North Campus to help nature, by returning a half century old golf course to wetlands.
Carla Frisk has been working on the project for a decade, first with the Trust For Public Land, which helped orchestrate the purchase of more than 60 acres of what was the golf course, and then with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
In the late 2000’s, with the golf course’s use sagging, the owner of the land off of Storke Road had a plan to develop the property. When the economy tanked, he agreed to sell most of the property to non-profit groups so it could be restored as wetlands. He retained a small piece of it for development. It was a complex, seven million dollar deal, funded with a number of grants. Now, another $15 million dollars is being used to restore the habitat, with work now underway.
Lisa Stratton is the Director of Ecosystem Management at UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity And Ecological Restoration. Stratton says they’ll move the dirt from the 68 acres of wetlands to create a mesa area, open a channel for water, and put native plants back into the area. The restored area will connect with some existing wetlands creating a 136 acre nature preserve. It will have bridges, boardwalks, and 2.5 miles of trails so people can enjoy nature.
When the project is complete, its trails will also give the public a unique hiking opportunity. They will be another part of the growing California Coastal Trail, allowing people to hike from the beach to the Ellwood Bluffs area.