Gaviota State Park

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Save the Gaviota Coast
Photo ©  Debbie Stock 


Independent Editorial *Author not credited


Our Gaviota Coast: a 35-mile-long swath of rural Am

erica, 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 line. 


 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 years. 


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 rural coast.



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