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Stow House getting ready for the 4th.

Margaret Connell

Stow House getting ready for the 4th.


Independence Day, Goleta-Style

Big Booms at Girsh Park, Quiet Afternoons in Nature


Come and celebrate July 4 in Goleta, away from the hassles of downtown traffic!

The annual Old-Fashioned 4th of July at the Stow House (located at 304 N. Los Carneros Rd.) is a longstanding Goleta tradition. It runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features hayrides, BBQs, games, and races, an old engine show, classic cars, local artists, house tours, cookie making for the kids, and much more. Live music throughout the day will be provided by Hot Lava (“Rock Music for Kids”), Dixieland band Ulysses S. Jazz, and country band The Twangin’ Iguanas. This is a great way for families and children to celebrate our national birthday. Adult admission is $6 and children are free.

Margaret Connell

From the Stow House it is just a short walk to the Railroad Museum and Goleta Depot where there will be train rides for the kids from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Another fun place to go during the day is the Family Fun Fair at the Elks Lodge (located at 150 North Kellogg), where there will be games and a BBQ from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the evening all can converge on Girsh Park (behind the Calle Real Marketplace) for the Goleta Fireworks Festival put on by the Rotary Clubs of Goleta. It starts at 4 p.m., with fireworks scheduled to begin around 9 p.m. There will be music and dancing, a playground with bounce houses, face painting, food and beverages, and more. Yes, there will be some traffic, but it will be much easier than on the waterfront in Santa Barbara. Adults are $6, and children 3-12 are $3.

Note that whatever your evening plans, before you leave home, make sure that your pets are safe and secure. Many pets are afraid of fireworks and may try to run away.

By Margaret Connell

San Jose Creek.

The Quiet Enjoyment of Nature

For those who prefer to be far from the madding crowd, there are many quiet places to go in Goleta on the 4th of July and throughout the year as well. In the Goleta Valley, there are natural areas within walking distance of almost every neighborhood. The one exception is Old Town, and even there the new Armitos Park abuts San Jose Creek and the trees along its bank.

The whole Ellwood area, University Village, and Isla Vista enjoy the luxury of the Sperling Preserve and Coal Oil Point Reserve right on their doorstep. The eucalyptus grove is home to thousands of Monarch butterflies in the winter months, and all year there is a multitude of birds, especially around the Devereux Slough, and on the beach and the mesa. After rain, vernal pools can be found on the Camino Corto Open Space by Isla Vista School and on the bluffs.

Lake Los Carneros.
Click to enlarge photo

Margaret Connell

Lake Los Carneros.

The 140-acre Los Carneros Natural and Historical Preserve bordered by Los Carneros and Covington Roads is crisscrossed with trails around its beautiful lake, a haven for birds and other wildlife. Like the Sperling Preserve, it is much used by walkers in the neighborhood.

These are the big regional parks. But threaded throughout the Goleta Valley are trails and narrow strips of natural areas, many along creeks, where required setbacks from the banks have ensured their preservation. One runs along San Jose Creek, beside Merida Drive. After walking through oaks, sycamore, and elderberry rich with purple fruit, there nestled among the trees is a children’s playground, close to the neighboring street, and yet sheltered from it.

Oak along San Pedro creek.
Click to enlarge photo

Margaret Connell

Oak along San Pedro creek.

Another short trail runs along San Pedro Creek, between Stow Canyon Road and Cathedral Oaks and makes a brief, but delightful, escape from traffic. Stow Grove Park and its redwood grove, planted by the Stows in the 1920s, is a much loved and beautiful haven.

Further to the west is the Evergreen Open Space, near Brandon School. This includes a mowed meadow and tennis courts to the west, but beyond that is a wooded wetland, with a eucalyptus grove and, within it, a Frisbee golf course not entirely part of the natural landscape, but a fitting, non-intrusive activity in this quiet place.

And from my house, in El Encanto Heights, I can walk past the Dos Pueblos High School baseball field and follow the school’s cross-country course through the oak trees along Glen Annie Creek. Underfoot there are sea shell fragments from a Chumash midden, an archeological site that has deterred any development in this area.

By Margaret Connell

Part of the Obern bikeway.

And then there are the bikeways, which, while paved, go through many natural areas and enable people to ride safely and quietly to the beach or to work along the southern edge of the valley.

I know that there are many more such places that I have not mentioned, known and treasured by people in the different neighborhoods.

As more and more land is being paved, we must preserve and enhance these islands of greenery and nature to protect ecological diversity. And we need them too for our peace of mind and quietude in an increasingly discordant world.

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