For the second time in as many years, the Goleta Valley Land Trust has announced it is officially pulling the plug on itself after having given out 69 grants worth nearly $5 million to buy and preserve open space throughout the Goleta Valley. This time, however, the boardmembers mean it, and the $10,000 left in their bank account will be transferred to the Santa Barbara Land Trust. The Goleta trust and its $5-million endowment was born of the epic land-use battle that eventually resulted in the Bacara Hotel by Haskell’s Beach in western Goleta. The Bacara’s original developer, Alvin Dworman, first won county approval in 1983. But he was stymied by Citizens for the Goleta Valley, spearheaded by Harriet Phillips, until 1991 when the California Supreme Court would rule in his favor. To prevent further legal challenges, Dworman agreed to pay Citizens for Goleta Valley $5 million, and they would use the proceeds to save open space in Goleta Valley from development.
Since 1997, the Land Trust used its relatively limited resources to leverage much larger grants from bigger preservation organizations. In the process, it helped keep Fairview Gardens alive and secured land to build new trails, protect butterfly groves, and maintain what is today Girsh Park. The trust was also a major player in the successful campaign to save Ellwood Shores. Most recently, it donated $500,000 to buy Ocean Meadows Golf Course and another $85,000 to restore that land to its natural estuarine state. It was the timing of that donation that required the Land Trust to stay in business even after it announced two years ago it was closing up shop.