Over the past few months, as my friends and I have worked to raise awareness of the impending development of the endangered West Mesa of the San Marcos Foothills we have met scores of people who love and cherish their time on this beautiful land.
Parents with small children in tow remark on the importance of the easily accessible wild space, saying that the San Marcos Foothills West is somewhere they can bring their children on a daily or weekly basis for a ramble. We talked to one young boy who expressed deep dismay that the place he loved to explore with his younger sister and parents would soon have “stupid houses” on it.
Bird watchers speak of the remarkable diversity of birds that breed on the property. Photos of Northern Harriers, Burrowing Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Phoebes, and Meadowlarks, to name only a small fraction of the birds who inhabit the developable space, have been shared on-line as birders work to educate the community about the incredible habitat that will be destroyed with the onset of development.
Artists from the Oak Group, as well as nature photographers, come to the foothills to plein air paint and shoot videos and photographs of the spectacular landscape and the animals that inhabit the ecosystem.
Walkers and hikers express their need for the solace and beauty that is readily available with a ramble on these highlands and through the arroyos, especially in these uncertain covid times. Public access to these views and the calming effects they provide for the community at large cannot be understated.
Ecologists and biologists have studied the ecosystem for its diversity and the fact that it is the last large remaining example of a wild foothill grassland in the Santa Barbara/Goleta urban area, studded with unusual boulders atop an ancient fanglomerate formation. Climatologists from UCSB set up an experimental weather data collection tower there to quantify information about sundowner winds and get better information about foothill temperatures in response to the increasing fire dangers we are facing from climate change. The San Marcos Foothills should serve as a wildland fuels buffer zone, too dangerous to site new houses on a dead end road.
While our community absolutely needs more workforce housing, we don’t need McMansions in extreme wildfire hazard areas. A portion of the San Marcos Foothills has already been developed as bona-fide affordable housing, along with more modest new homes adjacent to existing developed areas. The last 104 acres should stay open space for future generations.
This wild space isn’t merely a commodity to be utilized. It is home to our animal brethren, a breathtaking example of the beauty of South Central California, and a last accessible wild place in an increasingly crowded city.
Save San Marcos Foothills is working with Channel Islands Restoration to raise funds to purchase the property from the developer at a fair market price that is still in negotiation.
To that end, we need the cooperation of the developer, Chuck Lande and the landowner, Specialty Restaurants, as well as the support of the community. For more information please visit our website, SaveSanMarcosFoothills.org, and donate now at Buy and Protect the San Marcos Foothills. Together, we will save this precious legacy for our children and for all time.