Wetland to Golf Course and Back

It’s a rare, but wonderful, occurrence when a natural space is given an opportunity to revert to its former state. The Ocean Meadows property is just such a site, and the public has one last chance to weigh in on what they’d like to see as part of the restoration.

In 1965, the wetlands at the Storke Road property were covered in 1 million cubic yards of soil to facilitate the creation of a nine-hole golf course. For decades, golfers played, nestled in the midst of some of the most incredible vistas of the Central Coast, the Ellwood Open Space, the Coal Oil Point Preserve, and the Devereux Slough. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) bought the 63-acre parcel with $7 million in grant money in 2013. TPL then gave the land to UCSB, which will serve as its long-term steward.

Cat Neushul

The State Coastal Conservancy and UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) will work together to restore habitat for the more than 27 rare and endangered species found in the surrounding wetlands areas. TPL plans to raise funds to pay for the restoration and enhancement of the property, which is part of the more than 600 acres of open space located along the Devereux-Ellwood coast.

The September 25 workshop is the last in a series of meetings to solicit public input on plans for the area. Attendees will get a chance to walk around the property and discuss ideas, which include a small amphitheater, trails, bike paths, benches, and more. “We will look at the input and try to come up with a design that incorporates these ideas,” said Carla Frisk, manager for the Santa Barbara County Program of TPL “We are focused on people’s use of the property.”

Frisk added that local residents shouldn’t expect to see bulldozers at work on the property anytime soon. Permits need to be applied for, and agencies like the Coastal Commission will examine the project. The overall plan is to remove the soil that was trucked in, she said, and then the area will be primed to go back to its natural state, retain more water, and become a magnet for the birds in the area.

Not only will the restored land provide a home for plants, animals, and migratory birds, it will also provide a natural floodplain. While CCBER will be involved in providing guidance to ensure that the right plant species, soil types, and habitats are introduced to the area, it will also use the site as a research opportunity. One idea afloat is to investigate how a rise in sea level would affect the wetlands and surrounding areas.

The Community Workshop will be held on Wednesday, September 25 from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Upper Devereux Slough site, 6925 Whittier Drive in Goleta. While you might be reluctant to carve out a few hours of your time to attend another meeting, this workshop will be anything but tedious.

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