The Road to Coal Oil Point

New Paths and More Coming to West Campus Bluffs

If you’ve ever walked the dirt path from Isla Vista to Sands beach after a rain and ended up with a shoe full of mud, you’ll probably be thrilled to hear that plans are underway to lay a gravel path with decomposed granite that will withstand the elements and eliminate the need for puddle jumping. This is all part of an enhancement effort that is going on now along the West Campus Bluffs.

Cat Neushul

As you walk from Isla Vista to Coal Oil Point, you’ll see bulldozers removing cement and moving dirt from one place to another. You can see the flags along the pathway showing where the new bike and walking path will be laid out. And you can see markers where native plants have already been planted. There are detour signs and equipment to avoid as you walk along in this area, but the results should be well worth the inconvenience.

Near Sands there is a sign describing the renovation work: “The trail is being constructed to protect coastal resources from trampling and provide an enhanced pathway free of mud.” It’s about time for something like this to be done. Part of the beauty of the area is its untamed wildness, but we can’t always appreciate it because of the hazards posed by huge puddles and muddy paths.

But the new pathway is not the only thing visitors can look forward to. The area is going to be renovated to be more ecologically in tune with the environment. There are plans to restore the vernal pools and to plant swaths of native flora. The Coastal Fund, Associated Students, the California Coastal Conservancy, and the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration are all involved in the restoration process.

The area under renovation includes 37 acres of the West Campus Bluffs. The trail will be refurbished starting at the 6800 block of Del Playa and ending at Coal Oil Point. Many groups, including Associated Students UCSB, Goleta Valley Land Trust, and the Coastal Fund, are helping to fund the project. Cal Fran Engineering Inc. is in charge of renovating the pathways.

One of the first projects involves enhancing a vernal pool. If you look around this area after a rain, you’ll see large vernal pools that have already been restored to their natural state, free of non-native plants. You’ll be able to see plants like coyote thistle, meadow barley, toad brush, popcorn flower, and more. You’ll also see the wildlife that lives in this area, like the blue heron and the white egret. If you want to get an idea of what the place could look like, you should visit the Coal Oil Point Reserve. It is a lovely area to observe native plants and wildlife, and you can see where plants and sand dunes have already been restored.

As part of the West Campus Bluff renovation there will also be a nature center, called “The Center for Coastal Outreach and Science Training (C-Coast).” It will include a classroom, laboratories, outdoor meeting areas, and native plant restoration demonstration areas, such as bioswales and a Chumash ethnobotanical garden.

As a person who thinks the area between I.V. and Coal Oil Point is one of the most beautiful areas you can find, I’m thrilled to see that efforts are underway to make it even better. I envision wide paths where bicyclists and walkers do not collide, and where parents can take their children for peaceful strolls to look at the native plants. I’m not saying that bikers and walkers don’t use the area now, but I bet it’s pretty tough to roll a regular stroller along the path and, more than once, I’ve been almost sideswiped by a biker trying to carry a surfboard and avoid a hole in the road. I’m sure there will be people who’ll complain about the improvements. They may have liked things they were they were. But I, for one, feel that these changes will be a great improvement.


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