Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres

Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres title=
Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres
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(Jalama Beach / Photo: County of Santa Barbara)

By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) will return 36 acres of century-old private ranchland in the Jalama area to Santa Barbara County.

On Thursday the CCC unanimously adopted a set of orders penalizing illegal land use activities at the Cojo Jalama Ranches, formerly known as Bixby Ranch, and imposing a series of penalties and restoration requirements.  Part of the penalty, agreed to by the owners, is the donation of 36 acres of land adjacent to the County’s 24-acre Jalama Park. 

Over the past six years, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), on behalf of its client, California Native Plant Society (CNPS), have been advocating for strong enforcement in response to environmentally-destructive and unlawful development activities that occurred on the Ranches, which are known as a biologically diverse and unique stretch of coastal land on the Gaviota Coast. 

The EDC explains the Cojo Jalama Ranches provide habitat for many rare and protected species, including red-legged frog and Gaviota Tarplantt. They have sought full restoration of the damaged habitats, including restoring oak woodlands, creeks, and native grasslands, and provided support for the CCC to maintain a strong position in its negotiations with the landowners.

The 25,000-acre ranches were purchased by entities controlled by the hedge fund Baupost in 2007. They are the largest private properties in Santa Barbara County that surround Point Conception and have been privately owned for more than 100 years.
 
Cojo Jalama Ranches occupy an 11-mile swatch of coastline on either side of Point Conception, and comprise over 24,000 acres of rural agricultural land that has supported cattle ranching and dry land farming for over a century.  Called “Humqaq” by the Chumash native Americans, the land remains predominantly undeveloped and supports a proliferation of rich biodiversity, including 1,400 plant and animal species, 60 of which are rare, and 24 of which are listed as threatened or endangered species.  
 

“Of particular concern to CNPS was the damage to the Gaviota Tarplant – a plant that occurs only along the western Santa Barbara County coast and that is seriously threatened by energy development projects and invasive weeds – caused by the unpermitted activities,” said David Magney, Rare Plant Program manager with CNPS. “Fortunately, the Orders emphasize restoring this important plant.”

In 2011, a citizen reported to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy the removal of a habitat that had been restored for the endangered Gaviota Tarplant. An aerial survey was conducted to view the damage and a violation was confirmed. The County of Santa Barbara was contacted to initiate and enforcement action, however, the County concluded there was no violation. 

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy and others then encouraged CCC enforcement officers to further investigate the violation and in so doing, Coastal Commission officers uncovered a number of other land use violations, including 37 unpermitted water wells, grading and development in riparian areas, destruction of other habitat and numerous new roadways and road maintenance in highly sensitive areas.

According to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the Consent Restoration Order provides for numerous actions to remediate and compensate for the impact of the violations. Addressing a long-standing coastal access conflict, the Cojo Jalama Ranches will donate 36 acres to The County of Santa Barbara that will extend the southern boundary of Jalama County Park to the “Crack”, a bluff access point to the surf break known at Tarantulas. The disturbed areas associated with the water wells, roads, stock pond, and bluff grading will be restored. 200 acres of oak tree habitat will be planted. 300 acres of invasive, non-native ice plant on the coastal prairie will be removed. And a $500,000 payment will be made to the CCC’s Violation Remediation Account.

Mike Lunsford, former President of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy stated: “Enforcement of the Coastal Act is central to protection of the Gaviota Coast. Despite overwhelming evidence, the County refused to enforce its own LCP and Coastal Zoning Ordinance for the destruction of habitat that was created to mitigate the impacts from a prior oil development. We are grateful that the Coastal Commission pursued its investigation and prosecution of these egregious violations to a successful outcome.”

 “The expansion of Jalama Park advances a long-standing Gaviota Coast Conservancy goal of completing the Coastal Trail through Santa Barbara County and increased coastal recreational opportunities," said Ed Easton, Chair of the GCC Land Use Committee. "Surfers have long accessed the surf break Tarantulas by parking on the Jalama Road and hiking down ‘The Crack’ trail to the beach, but often returned to find their cars ticketed or towed when Bixby called the Sheriff. We hope the County Parks Department will add the new lands to Jalama Park quickly, and authorize parking on the road to facilitate recreational use of the coast.”

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a-1511449061 Nov 14, 2017 10:59 AM
Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres

Too bad it took rape and pillage of sensitive habitat to make this happen. Shame on the County for not acting sooner. How is it possible to commit illegal acts such as the installation of 37 unpermitted wells and no one notices until after the fact? Palms must have been copiously greased.

Yeti Nov 14, 2017 08:54 AM
Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres

Its really too hard to get very excited about this in a positive way.. All it really means is that now you can park a couple hundred yards further to the South, and walk down to the beach that you could have walked down to from the Jalama park anyways.. I have hiked all the way to Pt. Conception from Jalama.. this does not really add very much for "the people", unfortunately. One person's comments references the coastal trail expansion... That would be awesome IF it connected through the ranch all the way to Gaviota, BUT the quote from the Gaviota Coast Conservency: " advances a long-standing Gaviota Coast Conservancy goal of completing the Coastal Trail through Santa Barbara County" CLEARLY states that this is a big dream of theirs and in reality this really does nothing to make it happen.. Extending the trail about 30 miles through private ranches along the boast would be amazing, but extremely unlikely that it will ever happen. too bad!

rustydad Nov 14, 2017 07:07 AM
Jalama County Park to Expand by 36 Acres

Now with the acquisition of one more small piece of land the Coastal Trail will extend from Jalama Beach to Government Point and include the Point Conception Lighthouse, almost 6 miles of exquisite coastal trail.

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