Black bears, mountain lions, native grasses, red-shouldered hawks, barn owls, blooming wildflowers, and a world-class telescope are just a smattering of the things you could see during an afternoon exploring the Sedgwick Reserve, the nearly 6,000-acre Santa Ynez Valley ranch located at the foothills of Figueroa Mountain that sculptor and rancher Duke Sedgwick donated to UCSB in 1996.
And on Saturday, April 10 — as well as any second Saturday of the month, when guided hikes are offered — you’ll get your chance to visit, as the Sedgwick hosts an open house for the public, complete with tacos, jazz, bocce ball, art projects, and docent-led walks through the property. The $10 entry fee (or $25 per family, which includes a drink and dessert), $8 taco plates, and auction (items include a private group mountain bike trip, overnight camping, and a night of stargazing with an expert, all at the reserve) will go straight to funding the Sedgwick’s numerous outdoor programs for school children from throughout the county.
“Our mission here is threefold: research, education for college students, and outreach to younger students,” said reserve director Kate McCurdy, who explained that the outreach component is simultaneously critical yet vulnerable to cutbacks. Speaking of the grade schoolers who regularly get introduced to the great outdoors via the Sedgwick, McCurdy explained, “It’s when that little seed gets planted and they realize, ‘Hey, you can be scientist for a living!’”
The Sedgwick is part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System, a network of 36 special conservation areas that are managed by the various campuses, mostly as closed-off zones where research on natural history takes place. But because the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County helped finance the full acquisition of the Sedgwick with public monies, the property must remain accessible to all.
As one of the only UC reserves set up that way, the Sedgwick welcomes the several thousand everyday folks who come each year to explore relatively untouched oak savannah and chaparral wilderness while learning from extensively trained volunteer docents. Visitors may even get to interact with working scientists, who study everything from microbial soils and how responsible cattle grazing can eradicate invasive species to faraway galaxies. That latter is possible due to the recent installation of the Byrne Observatory, which is part of the quickly expanding Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, the project of Goleta resident and former Apple/Google engineer Wayne Rosing. (See lcogt.net for more info.)
But why bother reading anymore about the Sedgwick when the time to visit in all its spring glory is just days away? The open house is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 10. For directions to the gate at 3566 Brinkerhoff Road, silent auction items, and more information, see Sedgwick.ucnrs.org or call 686-1941.