In 1965, a handful of local visionaries began remaking what was considered blighted land, ultimately transforming it into Santa Barbara’s largest public park. Today, the beautification of Elings Park continues with plans to recycle 24 acres of landfill to make way for a putting green. At the end of construction – scheduled to begin two years from now – the area which currently holds the park’s BMX tracks will also boast a rock climbing wall, a ropes course with a zip line, and a roller hockey field.

Fresher, cleaner water is in the pipeline –well, not yet. The City of Santa Barbara entered the first phase of a project to comply with stricter federal standards for the toxic byproducts of disinfection. The cleaner water is expected to be on tap by 2012. Meanwhile, a pilot study still underway at the city’s Cater Treatment Plant found ozone to be the most effective – but most expensive – way to clean water. The simplest was installing narrower pipes in the delivery system to reduce the time water spends standing, rotting, and disinfecting.

A proposed Cingular cell tower to be sited near Cold Spring School in Montecito has sparked controversy, with critics arguing the tower could become a health issue for students. At a community meeting last week, residents and representatives of the Cold Spring School voiced their objections to the site choice. Robert Collector, president of the Montecito Association, proposed a formal forum in January 2007 to allow community members, school officials, and representatives to officially weigh in on the issue.

After more than a decade of research, UCSB biologist Bradley J. Cardinale has published an article in Nature magazine concluding that all forms of biodiversity – extending all the way down to diversity among insects – are not only beneficial to humans, but essential to functioning ecosystems. “This service provided by species’ diversity is worth millions of dollars for agriculture,” he explained as one example. Cardinale’s findings that ecosystems rich in biodiversity are generally more productive than those with a less varied species population are especially significant in relation to today’s rapidly increasing extinction rate.

A baby harbor seal is on the road to recovery this week after sustaining life-threatening injuries from an apparent great white shark attack in the waters off Carpinteria. Still a few weeks away from being released back into the wild, the seal pup is being cared for by the staff at the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center. Last winter, onlookers bore witness to an adult harbor seal being violently taken by a shark in the waters just off the Carpinteria Bluffs.

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