Local officials and Land Trust staff and stakeholders broke ground on Friday to mark the start of conservation and programming efforts at the newly purchased Gaviota Overlook. | Credit: Courtesy

Golden shovels broke ground at Gaviota Overlook on Friday, October 20, to celebrate the success of the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County’s $3 million fundraising campaign to purchase the land and protect it from development.

Local officials — including County Supervisors Joan Hartmann and Das Williams — joined Land Trust leadership, donors, and staff in using the golden-bow-wrapped spades to strike where new trails will soon slither across the coastline. 

It was a foggy morning for celebrating the Land Trust’s latest accomplishment in their decades-long, piece-by-piece effort to preserve the Gaviota Coast, dating back to the early 2000s. 

The conservation-focused nonprofit launched the fundraising campaign in August 2022 to purchase Gaviota Overlook’s 48 acres of rolling grassland neighboring the Arroyo Hondo nature preserve’s 782 acres between Refugio State Beach and Gaviota State Park. 

With the new acquisition, they aim to grow Arroyo Hondo’s trail network, programming, and public access for the first time in 20 years. 

The fundraising campaign’s community funding portion, which was launched on Valentine’s Day with the aim to raise $750,000 of the total $3 million, was given a $500,000 boost in late February from an anonymous donor. With the “mystery gift,” they only had $210,000 left to raise to make the purchase, which they were able to accomplish in less than a year thanks to the more than 20 donors who contributed. 

Land Trust executive director Meredith Hendricks | Credit: Courtesy

The Land Trust said they hope the acquisition will be the first in a series of conservation campaigns, adding up to thousands of conserved acres stretching from the Dangermond Preserve in the west through to Refugio and El Capitán State Beach in the south. 

“There are not many places left along the Central California Coast that we can still protect, and few places on earth are as stunning as Gaviota,” said Meredith Hendricks, the Land Trust’s executive director. 

With life-supporting grasslands and three watershed drainages that recharge the water table with winter rains, “the climate benefits are enhanced” through the Land Trust’s management, and “the community will experience firsthand why conserving the Gaviota Coast matters,” Hendricks added. 

Gaviota Overlook at Arroyo Hondo Preserve is planned to be open to the public by summer 2024, but the Land Trust said it depends on the coming winter. 

“This project is especially near to my heart because of the trail expansion from Arroyo Hondo that it provides,” said Joe Weiland, president of the Board of Trustees for the Land Trust. “I love to get out on our amazing county trails and any expansion of hiking opportunities on the Gaviota Coast is a gift to future generations.”

To make reservations to visit Arroyo Hondo and learn more about Gaviota Overlook, visit sblandtrust.org.


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