Independent Editorial *Author not credited
Our Gaviota Coast: a 35-mile-long swath of rural Am
rolling along the coast form the western edge of Goleta to point Conception.
For many of us, it's one of the sweetest stretches of freeway anywhere
in the world, a pristine reminder of the Arcadian paradise that defined
the California Dream. For a few of us, it's a place of working ranches,
of cattle grazing on a thousand hills. For fewer yet, it's home. And for
all of us, it's a treasure. But there's no good reason to expect things
to remain the same, unless we act. Now is the time to draw a line in the
sand. Now is the time to save the Gaviota Coast from the momentous cement
reach of urban sprawl.
With state water now gurgling happily thought the pipelines,
there are few natural constraints to stop such growth from overwhelming
coastal California. And if you hink that sounds okay, take a peek at Pismo
Beach sometime. Or closer to home, check out the explosion of red
tile by Winchester Canyon and Highway 101, the South Coast's urban limit
We call for the protection of Gaviota for all the
obvious reasons. Because it's there. Because the world grows less wild
and rural every day. But some of our reasons are not so immediately evident.
Gaviota's rolling hills offer more than scenic beauty. Goth naturally and
culturally they are tartlingly unique, on par with some of the grandest
land-and seascapes on earth. The Greater Gaviota Coast covers the maritime
corner of California, Point Conception, and fans out across watersheds
to north and west. The unusual lay of the land, with the Santa Ynez Mountains-one
of North America's only east-west running ranges-jutting from the coast
at Point Conception and running along to the southern spurs of the Sierra
Nevada, creates a geologic mixing bowl as rich as it is rare.
Along the Gaviota Coast, the cool and wet climes to the
north fuse with the warm and dry of the south. It is here both on shore
and off, that northern plants and animals reach their southern range while
those of the south reach their northern limits. Not only does such a grand
overlap harbor remarkable biodiversity, but a host of living things that
grow and roam nowhere else on the planet.
As far as human history, this region holds roughly 9,000
years of Chumash history-extraordinarily intact-preserved within the relatively
unchanged natural confines of the surrounding mountains, foothills, creeks
and beaches. With this rich record, we can decipher the ways and means
of Chumash life with revealing clarity. Closer to the present, Gaviota
Mexican and Spanish history hold an era of land grants and agricultural
livelihood that has stayed pretty much the same for the past couple hundred
All of this natural and human splendor sits directly in
the path of a quickly growing urban world called Southern California. Much
of Southern California's natural and rural land is gone. Is the Gaviota
Coast next? We say no. And to protect it from this so-called progress we
applaud farmers and ranchers who voluntarily sell their development rights,
thereby locking their land in agriculture in perpetuity.
We recommend that county officials forever hold fast to
the urban limit line, now drawn in western Goleta at Winchester Canyon,
and reject out of hand any and all development proposals that attempt to
leapfrog west. And with certain reservations, we support the concept of
having the National Park Service conduct a study to see whether the Gaviota
Coast is worthy of protection under a federally designated "National Seashore."
We hesitate because, for now, most of the farmers and ranchers with whom
cooperative relationships must be forged for Gaviota to be protected have
yet to support the idea, uncertain of federal oversight.
And to the developers-we'll name them if we must-who wish
to exploit the Gaviota Coast's priceless real estate for personal financial
gain, we say this: Take your bulldozers elsewhere. Well your land-or at
least your development rights-to any one of a number of conservation groups
willing to buy. You'll get a fair rate of return.
We can no longer take Gaviota's unspoiled beauty for granted.
We must stop ignoring the obvious. And we must protect what's left of our
Gaviota State Park