Less Is More on More Mesa

A Renewed Plea to Save a Natural Space

More Mesa | Credit: courtesy

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Riding my bicycle one Saturday up on More Mesa, I found myself wondering if anyone is actively trying to save this place. I know it’s for sale and I also know it’s beloved by the community. It later occurred to me, while pausing under the shade of a eucalyptus that the people who have stepped in to save these types of places in the past have most likely been adults. Possibly in their thirties. As someone who fits this broad demographic, I began to consider if there was anything I could do.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m about to present some novel, grand plan to save More Mesa. I’m not. I think, given my time and abilities, I’d rather try and simply elevate the idea of preserving this beautiful place within our city. To that end, I submit a mantra: Less Is More on More Mesa.

Fifty million dollars. That’s the amount of U.S. dollars the mysterious owners of More Mesa currently want. I do not have that much money. Do you? If so, is buying More Mesa the best use of such an obscene sum? I’m honestly not sure.

Now, I do not have enough money to make a respectable offer for More Mesa. I do not have enough money to make even an offensive offer. That’s not my goal. I believe there are many things about More Mesa that make it worth preserving in its present and mostly wild state. Allow me to briefly describe three:

  1. Vernal pools. Before I go on, can we quickly agree that the combination of these two words creates a calming, pleasing image in the mind? Vernal pools. Ever heard of them? Until a few years ago I hadn’t either. But More Mesa has one! A complex, ephemeral pool that appears in winter and spring, and that can support all kinds of unique flora and fauna. You know, one of the things I’ve increasingly grown to appreciate is how nice it can be to go somewhere throughout the year and observe the way that place changes, to recognize its seasons and rhythms. It is an agreeable way to mark time and our passage as individuals through it. In the winter you might walk in More Mesa and spy this vernal pool, while in the summer you may pedal your bike and see only a dry, cracked basin. Things change and that’s okay. A vernal pool, for example.
  1. Low-key private rendezvous. Young or old, More Mesa is a place you can go with your friends to meet, wander, and find a place to converse. Or play. Or all of these things. In using the words “low-key” in the above phrase, I’m trying to suggest that one should not feel obliged to record and publish a carefully edited version of their life at More Mesa. By including the word “private,” I’m alluding to how our built environment seems ever more interested in recording what we do. And yet I think we need places where we can practice and discuss the art of life, free from the watchful eyes of the world and its countless cameras. We need places where the pressure to attain “likes” and “views” does not take precedence over the experience itself. So let us try to keep in mind what a joy it can be, regardless of our age, to meet with a friend or friends in a place that is not interested in capturing our image or harvesting our data. Where we can frolic in peace under an open sky and let the waves drown out the sound of our laughter.
  1. Access to the nude beach. I don’t actually know if there’s a nude beach here anymore. Did the invention of smart phones and drones cause nude beaches to go extinct? It seems possible. Well, from my incomplete and mostly anecdotal research, people used to frequently get naked on the beach below More Mesa. For example, in the expanded 4th edition of California’s Nude Beaches from 1994, author Dave Patrick explains that More Mesa was “By far the Santa Barbara area’s favorite buns-in-the sun site.” Personally, it’s not my cup of tea to disrobe in daylight and saunter or sprawl in the sand, but I don’t really mind setting aside some small section of coast for those who find joy in this. There are far worse things happening in our midst.

To have wildness within our borders is a beautiful thing. To be public but also be permitted to seek privacy, if we so desire, is a luxury that many around the world cannot enjoy. These things are worthy of protection and, especially in Santa Barbara, are a better long-term investment than the development of ever more mansions. Let’s try to preserve More Mesa. In this case, less is more.

(As part of my modest attempt to raise the city’s collective consciousness around this issue, I had planned to hand out “Less Is More On More Mesa” bumper stickers at the Earth Day festivities at Alameda Park. Alas, the event was moved online. If you do happen to come across a pile of cash you are not in need of, consider giving it to The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, or any other worthwhile organization.)

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