The Trust for Public Land on Friday finalized its purchase of 63.9 acres of the 70-acre site at 6925 Whittier Drive, making way for conservation and restoration of what was once a working wetland ecosystem.
With the acquisition, the Trust completes a four-year effort to raise $7 million in federal, state and local funds to buy the property, said Alex Size, project manager with the nonprofit organization focused on giving people access to the nation’s natural beauty.
The Trust for Public Land, UC Santa Barbara and the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County are joining forces to right what Size deems an environmental wrong that never could happen in today’s world of stricter guidelines: building a nine-hole, par-36 golf course on top of a vibrant, ecological gem.
“What happened in 1965 is a developer came in and dumped an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of dirt and filled in wetland and estuaries,” Size told Noozhawk. “What we’re trying to do is basically acquire the property and dig out that dirt. It’s a huge restoration project.”
As part of the deal, Ocean Meadows boarded up its clubhouse doors and windows this week and closed for good — something locals have known was coming for months.
Even with the plywood indicators, however, some golfers lingered on the course’s green under gray skies Thursday to get in some final free rounds.
Size said the golf course was no longer financially viable, which was confirmed by Mark Green, who has owned Ocean Meadows since 1994.
Size said the Trust has received approval from the California Coastal Commission to subdivide the property because Green is retaining a seven-acre parcel near Devereux Slough.
Green said Friday that he has already received an initial go-ahead from the commission to build a 28-unit, cluster single-family housing development in the space.
Restoration of the Ocean Meadows parcel is in line with work on land surrounding the site, which is owned by UCSB and includes a 68-acre south parcel and the Devereux Slough. Ellwood Mesa, another project of the national trust organization, lies adjacent to the south parcel.
Michael Feeney, executive director of the county Land Trust, said the nonprofit has been working with UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration on initial studies to determine how to best create an ecologically functional habitat in such close proximity to an urban environment.
CCBER has and will continue to provide matching funds to retain the south parcel as an open space, a condition of its in-progress project to building housing for UCSB’s growing number of faculty and students on adjacent land north of the golf course, Feeney said.
The preliminary plan is to dig out much of the course’s dirt and move it to the south parcel, from where it was taken decades ago.
“We’ve been involved in looking at how can restoration of the south parcel benefit and be done in conjunction with the golf course property,” Feeney said. “In order to re-create wetlands on the golf course, they’re going to have to take out a bunch of dirt. How do we make it function better?”
A soil study has already been completed, and the tentative schedule is to complete the first phase of assessment work by the end of 2013, Feeney said. A host of environmental approvals will ensue.
Now that the property has been secured, Size said, the Trust will continue to be involved in fundraising and planning design efforts to implement recreational aspects of the project, which would include pedestrian bridges, park improvements and more.