Santa Barbara County Supervisors are poised to vote Tuesday, November 7, on a deal that would pave the way for the sale of about 140 acres of their Gaviota land holdings while re-doubling their intent to grant public access to the coastal Baron Ranch.
The 1,090-acre Baron Ranch, which sits just north of the Refugio Road exit of Highway 101, was purchased in 1991 by the county’s Public Works Department for $7.5 million. The county did so for two reasons: one, to provide a buffer zone around the Tajiguas landfill; and two, to one day offer recreational activities for the public.
But in recent years, the resulting debt from the purchase — currently sitting at about $4.7 million dollars — has become a hindrance to the county and has blocked the dreams for public access. Making matters worse has been the fact that the limited cherimoya and avocado ranching activities on the property that some felt would help pay off the ranch have averaged little more than $93,000 of net income annually.
Looking to deal with the debt in one fell swoop and jump start the trail endeavors with a little extra cash and show of commitment, county staffers are proposing the sale of a 140-acre portion of the ranch, which includes a residential structure and much of the farming operations. The hope is that within a year or two of the sale, the remaining county property will have a full service internal loop trail that meanders through the rolling hills and down along the Arroyo Quemado Creek. Further, money willing, plans are in the works to one day link the loop with a trail along Camino Cielo Road atop the Santa Ynez Mountain range in the Los Padres National Forest. The county would also leave open the door for one day using portions of the remaining acreage as a site for a solid waste facility.