Posted by: James Wapotich | January 2, 2013

Trail Quest: More Mesa Open Space

With the close of 2012 and the beginning of a new year, there is an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished so far and set one’s intentions for the coming year. It can be a time for gratitude and recognition, as well as visioning.

As a community the people of Santa Barbara County have stepped up many times to ensure and protect our trails and open spaces. We have donated time and energy to maintain and clean our local trails and beaches, as well as open up new trails.

There are also a number of organizations that have helped focus us on opportunities to ensure that we will continue to live in one of the more beautiful places in the world.

More Mesa Open Space

A view of the Santa Ynez Mountains frame More Mesa Open Space

1985 saw the official opening of what is now called Elings Park, along Los Positas Drive, formerly the site of the city of Santa Barbara’s landfill. Community members and organizations have raised close to $15 million over the years to develop and enhance the park. In 1994 an additional 133 acres were purchased and added to the park bringing its total area to 230 acres.

In 1997 community members helped raised funds so the Trust For Public Land could purchase the Wilcox property, located near Cliff Drive overlooking the coast. The Trust For Public Land purchased the 70-acre site for $3.6 million and then deeded it to the city of Santa Barbara, which now manages it as a city park open to the public as the Douglas Family Preserve.

In 1999 community members raised close to $4 million to purchase the property at Carpinteria Bluffs, and create the 52-acre Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve for the public to enjoy.

In 2001 The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County purchase a 782-acre site along the coast near Gaviota, now known as Arroyo Hondo Preserve.

In 2005 community members with support from the Trust for Public Land raised over $20 million to purchase a 137-acre site at Elwood Mesa in Goleta. The land was then transferred to city of Goleta and became Sperling Preserve.

In 2007 the county of Santa Barbara acquired 200 acres of undeveloped land near State Route 154 that had been donated to the Trust for Public Land, and created what is now known as San Marcos Foothills Preserve.

Northern Harrier More Mesa Open Space Santa Barbara Hiking trail

A Northern Harrier is seen wintering at More Mesa Open Space

These are just some of the places that have been preserved locally over the years and each of these undertakings has ensured that the land is protected from development and remains open to the public.

More Mesa open space may very well be the next property to be preserved. The 300-acre site is located between Goleta Beach and Hope Ranch. The County of Santa Barbara owns 35 acres in the northwest corner of the open space, and the remaining 265 acres are privately owned, but currently open to the public.

From the trailhead near Patterson Avenue one can craft a hike along the bluffs and access the coast near Hope Ranch Beach for a hike of about 2.5 miles roundtrip. The hike can be extended by continuing along the beach and taking an alternate route back through the open space.

To get to the trailhead, take Patterson Avenue exit from Highway 101, and turn towards the ocean. Patterson Avenue crosses Hollister Avenue and continues south. The road then turns east and becomes Shoreline Drive. Just before the road turns south again and becomes Orchid Drive, you’ll spot some pullouts along the side of road as well as a sign denoting the open space.

From the trailhead continue east, the trail follows Atascadero Creek, passing through riparian woodland. At about the quarter mile mark the trail branches, with the trail to left continuing east, towards the middle of the open space.

The trail to the right essentially circumnavigates the property and leads to the bluff overlooking the coast. The are several side paths along the way on the left that lead towards and criss cross the interior of the property allowing for a variety of routes with which to explore the mesa.

The trail along the bluff provides the best views both out towards the Channels Islands and inland towards the Santa Ynez Mountains. Along the bluff at the eastern end of the property, amongst the eucalyptus trees, there is a coastal access point with terraced steps leading down to the beach.

Harbor Seals More Mesa Open Space Beach Santa Barbara hiking trail

Harbor Seals resting at More Mesa Beach

One can also reach this coastal access by parking along Puente Drive and walking in from Mockingbird Lane, and continuing due south towards the ocean. The coastal access is about a quarter miles west of Hope Ranch Beach and is more or less midway between Arroyo Burro County Beach Park and Goleta Beach Park, about 2.5 miles from each. The hike to Goleta Beach does requiring timing ones hike to catch low tide, but can include seeing harbor seals resting on the rocks offshore.

The beach at More Mesa is known for nude sunbathing in the warmer months. If the sight of people unclothed is disturbing to you, then avoid this area, particularly west of the coastal access point.

More Mesa takes it name from T. Wallace More, who purchased the land from his father-in-law in 1856, and established an asphaltum mine on the property. Natural tar seeps are still evident along the beach.

Just recently the property has been sold to an investment group from Saudi Arabia for $25 million, bringing into question the future of the open space.

In 1993 the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted the Goleta Community Plan which included zoning that stipulated that up to 70 residential units could be built on the property, but only in the eastern 40 acres of the site, leaving the remaining 225 acres as open space.

And so there is still an opportunity to ensure that the land will remain open at More Mesa. The More Mesa Preservation Coalition continues to hold a vision of purchasing and preserving the entire area as an open space and perhaps that opportunity will also arise, allowing More Mesa to become the next protected open space along our coast.

More Mesa Open Space Beach Santa Barbara Hiking Trail

A view looking east towards Hope Ranch Beach from More Mesa Open Space

To get involved with supporting the preservation of More Mesa or for more information about More Mesa, go to Their website also includes a lot of interesting information about the flora and fauna found at More Mesa, as well as a satellite image of the open space that can be used as a basic map of the trails.

Looking forward to 2013, some new trails on our horizon include Baron Ranch Ridge Trail in the Santa Ynez Mountains near Gaviota and Franklin Trail in Carpinteria.

Baron Ranch Ridge Trail will connect the existing Baron Ranch Trail with Camino Cielo Trail, which runs along the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains, and would allow hikers to connect over to the trails in Gaviota State Park. The Santa Barbara Trails Council has been actively pursuing the development of this trail. The trail will likely be open this spring.

Franklin Trail at one time led from Carpinteria over the Santa Ynez Mountains and into the Santa Barbara backcountry near Jameson Lake. Friends of the Franklin Trail have done an incredible amount of work securing easements and raising funds to make necessary improvements in order to reopen the first 2 miles of the trail on the Carpinteria side of the mountains. The trail will likely be open to the public this summer.

Article appears in section A of the December 28th, 2012 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

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