By Phil Mckenna
The best prescription for your general wellbeing, assuming you are adhering to social distancing and washing your hands more than you think you need to, is to take a walk. Let me suggest one that is close by, but may not be on your radar.
The Gaviota Coast provides numerous wonderful strolls, walks, and hikes. The closest one to most of the residents of the South Coast is Coal Oil Point Reserve, part of the UC Natural Reserve System, and the adjacent UCSB North Campus Open Space.
The Coal Oil Point Reserve is best accessed by parking in Isla Vista near the intersection of Del Playa Dr. and Camino Majorca and walking west (away from UCSB) across the top of the bluff about one-half mile to the Point. Sands Beach is immediately to the west of the Point. The view overlooking Sands Beach on a clear day offers one of the best vistas of the Gaviota Coast; Government Point is in the distance, just a half-mile from Point Conception. Sands is a broad beach where the Deveroux Slough meets the ocean. It is accessible to walkers at most tides) and allows for a beach walk to the Bacara Resort. When beach walking, always be aware of tidal direction and magnitude. If you walk this beach, look for the Ellwood Onshore Facility adjacent to the Bacara (about 1.5 miles from the Point). This oil processing facility is non-functional given the abandonment of Platform Holly but the location will one day provide public beach access.
To view the inland portion of the Devereux Slough, from the Point walk about one-quarter mile north (toward the mountains) to an overlook at a dilapidated bridge. The Slough is a coastal wetland as it mixes salt and fresh water. During dry periods low freshwater flow and a sand berm at the ocean will block the interchange of ocean and fresh water. But in stormy periods fresh water and wave action will break the sand berm creating a flooded tidal lagoon. It is a very dynamic environment seasonally ranging from extensive mudflats to a broad shallow lagoon. You can also drive to this spot by taking Slough Road to the end – it is very scenic.
The northern portion of Devereux Slough is a restoration wonderland, known as the UCSB North Campus Open Space Restoration Project. Under the direction of Lisa Stratton at the UCSB Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, a 64-acre golf course that filled the northern portion of the Slough was removed (literally) and the Slough restored to its original dimensions. This is a mammoth undertaking that must be visited to be understood. Work is ongoing, but a loop trail with bridges is complete and can be accessed via Whitter Drive – look for a sign on the left, behind student housing, shortly after turning onto Whitter from Storke Road. The parking lot is being used for construction activities so park on the street.
A total of over one square mile of contiguous coastal habitat in this area has been preserved over the past 20 years. Go for a walk In this time of uncertainty, it will be rejuvenating.