This week marked the opening of public trails at UCSB’s North Campus Open Space after more than five years of restoration planning to protect the land and wildlife. Although the restoration construction began 18 months ago and the project is only nearing completion, several changes in the ecosystem have already been observed. Wildlife species are returning to the several locations, and migratory birds are hunting at the site regularly.
The 63 acres were previously the Ocean Meadows Golf Club, owned by Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Green, who received a $7 million offer for the property from the Trust for Public Land in 2008. The land trust then gifted the parcel to the Regents of the University of California. Since then, UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological has been working to restore the wetlands and upland Devereux Slough habitats to what it was more than 50 years ago.
When concrete and other materials were added to the ground, floods increased and the ecologies not suited for water heavy environments disappeared. Originally, the area was home to myriad California-specific wildlife, but after the golfers began playing through, the numbers dwindled. Some, like the tidewater goby, were since added to the growing list of endangered species. The project designed a hydrological system to distribute water to appropriate areas even as sea level rises, which supports different ecologies like that of the goby.
The open space project was initially estimated to cost $10 million, but UCSB was able to win $16 million in grant money from public agencies. Now, the North Campus team is focused on raising philanthropic gifts for maintenance, monitoring, and educational programming for students from kindergarten through college. North Campus will provide a natural ecosystem for wildlife, recreational space, and a safer passage between open spaces to the entire community.