Osprey Sightings on the Coast

Osprey with Flying Fish


There is just something about the way it flies, that bird cruising overhead. You think it's a gull, but the beat of its wings, and the angular, “M” silhouette cause you pause. If the bird is close enough, the dominant dark color, snowy underbelly and hooked black beak tell you it's not a gull, but an osprey! This is the fishing hawk, and a cool bird of prey found along the Gaviota Coast. 

You can spot the Osprey in flight, or perched near the sea in a tree or on a line. From there, it can take flight to pluck its prey, almost exclusively fish, from the water and rotate it so that the fish is aerodynamically arranged in its talons. The Osprey is somewhat unusual as a single species of land based bird found so widely distributed. From Scandinavia to Australia, Alaska to Florida to Argentina, the Osprey is found nearly everywhere except Australia. There are only a few other single, land-based species so widely distributed. 

For those who struggle to distinguish between our feathered brethren, there are some things to watch for. The Osprey is slightly bigger and heavier than a Western Gull, which is the common gull around the Gaviota Coast. The Osprey is dark brown on top, and streaked and white underneath, and up close, it has a mask across its eyes, and black talons rather than the pink webbed feet of the gull. Its head bears the classic curved beak of a raptor, not the straight one (with dot) of a gull.

Osprey Perched Peering Down


Cool Osprey features include nostrils that close on diving, backwards facing barbs on the talons to retain its slippery catch, and dense, oily plumage that prevents water logging. While the Osprey can be prey of the largest raptors like the Golden or Bald eagle, kleptoparasitism more common. Bald eagles steal the Osprey's catch.

The Osprey fell victim to the pesticides of decades past, but have made a substantial recovery. However, they still make Audubon's list of the birds designated as Climate Endangered, those whose populations may decrease by are 50 percent of their current range by 2050 if climate trends continue..

Keep an eye out for the Osprey along the Gaviota Coast, harbors, and county beaches.

See you on the coast!


A Walk on the Wild Side

Wild Fennel, Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

Nature can be cruel and nature can be kind. Take the wild fennel plant for example. It’s seeds and young stems are edible and can be steeped into a tea which can be very good for the digestive system. If you are experiencing bloating, fennel can be your friend. The wild hemlock plant looks very much like fennel and can be irrevocably deadly if ingested. It could be easy to confuse the two plants in the wild.


Emily Sanders, Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

Emily Sanders, founder of Artemisia Academy, explained where her infatuation with plants and their medicinal properties began. She was not brought up by botanists who taught her to love wild leafy things. She preferred shopping malls over wilderness trails.

As she struck out on a new backpacking experience, Emily was thrilled to learn of a new environment beyond fashion and pretty clothes. In fact, she told some of us on an herb walk at Baron Ranch, that she got violently sick on one of her new wilderness experiences. She didn’t go into gory details but I could only imagine giardia which comes from water contaminated with bacteria with animal feces. It can render one helpless like when you have food poisoning. On that trip she met some people who showed her how to make a tea from mint which would help alleviate much of her digestive discomfort. It worked! She was impressed and decided to learn more about the power of medicinal plants.

As an employee of Gaviota Coast Conservancy, I am always looking for new ways of experiencing the valuable resources we have available to us in this majestic area. I had heard of Herb Hikes and so I embarked on a Google search for the Santa Barbara area. Artemisia, a Santa Barbara herb school, popped up and I contacted Emily. She was excited to offer a walk and we decided on Baron Ranch as a starting point.

Our small group was confronted by National Forest trail closures due to the high fire danger. We hadn’t thought this would affect the coastal areas. Never the less, we were there and nobody wanted to turn back. Clad in our Covid mask armour, our hearty group decided it was worthwhile to proceed down the frontage road which led to the closed trailhead. We were encouraged to see small flags marking native plants that are part of a restoration project.

The lovely minty fragrance of purple sage caught my attention. Its essential oils contain antibacterial properties and can clear congestion in the nose, lungs and throat. It can be used for an expectorant and can stimulate circulation. Coastal sagebrush, also known as “cowboy cologne” has a fun wild fragrance but is very bitter as a tea which can stimulate digestion. There are many non-native plants that also contain beneficial healing properties.

Emily expressed a valuable lesson she learned from some Chumash friends. It is as important to give as to receive. She encouraged us to plant medicinal herb plants in our yards and other surroundings, especially the native varieties.

If we harvest these plants in the wild, we can deplete our resources. If we learn to identify the invasive yet medicinal plants like the yellow mustard, then take what we want. It is important to maintain a balance in all we do. Give and receive.

Hemlock at Baron Ranch, Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

This was just the beginning of our introduction to the wild medicinal plant world.

I look forward to the next journey. We have a walk planned for Gaviota Wind Tunnels on October 24 and another to Gaviota Hot Springs on November 21.

Contact Emily at Artemisia Academy if you want to be included on these trips or if you want to learn what the academy has to offer.



Geology Investigation on the Gaviota Coast

A Work of Art or Ancient History?


A Conversation between Janet Koed and Susie Bartz

Janet: When I saw this formation on a Gaviota beach stroll, I saw an amazing sculpture created by the great Mother Nature, a gift for anyone passing by who happened to look up. Then I became curious to know how the Wizard Mother’s work might be explained in scientific terms. Because I had been on a beach walk with Suzie Bartz and knew her to be a geology buff, I sent the photo to her for interpretation.

Susie: In the photo, we’re seeing the rich variety of layered sedimentary rock in the Monterey Formation. Those are the wavy white and dark gray layers of the background.  Into this is nestled a perfectly rounded rock, in contrast to the linear design of the Monterey rock behind it.

Geologically speaking, the multi-colored Monterey layers in your photo show three features (folding, faulting, and fracturing) caused by the stresses of tectonic compression acting in our region.  The S-shaped fold is called a drag fold, formed when the rock was deformed from its original shape as a stack of flat layers. A nifty little fault rising up from the bottom and leaning toward the upper left corner, may provide a slippage plane on which the fold is riding.  And the very faint rusty lines probably are tiny fractures filled with iron.

In contrast to the contorted Monterey rock layers, the rounded rock probably came from the sandstone cliffs of the mountains, carried in storms down a creek to the beach. Here the sandstone would have gotten rolled about and abraded to a beautiful smooth shape by the surf, contributing loosened sand grains in the process. It’s this erosion of sandstone, mostly from our mountains, that supplies the sand of our beaches. 

Quite a story in a picture. As they say, one picture is worth a thousand words! Thank you for sending this one. ~ Suzie

Janet: I had to know more so I asked Suzie to give me an estimated timeline regarding Monterey Formations

The Monterey Formation is a sedimentary marine organic mudstone (aka shale). It collected from gazillions of microscopic marine organisms, whose bodies died and fell into the ocean basins off the west coast from about 20 million to 6 million years ago (Miocene age).  It’s found in the sea cliffs, with a lot of it along our central coast. Much of it is also found inland along the ridges of some higher mountains, like Little Pine and Zaca Ridge, Hurricane Deck, and others. 

This whole area was underwater until the San Andreas action began to affect us, about 18 million years ago. The resulting and ongoing compression has deformed the coastal borderland, including the offshore continental shelf, and has pushed it up. 

out of the water and up to thousands of feet high. This tectonic compression formed our Santa Ynez Mountains including the Coldwater and Gaviota Sandstone cliffs that supplied your pretty little rounded rock (50-60 million years old) as well as the uplifted Monterey mudstones that form the sea cliff. ~ Suzie

Janet: I wish to thank Susie Bartz and Mother Nature for this story. 

Now, can anyone give me your interpretation of this one?  I call her Pangolini.

What's Your Interpretation?


Interested in learning more about Gaviota Coast geology?

Join us for a geology hike on Saturday, October 17 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at Haskell's Beach. We are limited to 14 people and ask for a $10 fee to reserve your place. Call Janet at 805-683-6631.


Coastal Cleanup Month Diary

For several Years, Gaviota Coast Conservancy has been in charge of trash pickup on Refugio State Beach on Coastal Cleanup Day. In so many ways, this year is different. We are encouraged to go visit our favorite beaches, pick up trash and avoid crowds. And so, I set out with a friend or three each week to do my part.

DAY 1: First, I was invited to sail to Santa Cruz Island with Rich and Jane. This was not necessarily a trash reconnaissance.  We had our eyes focused on looking for whales, dolphins and other ships as we navigated in and out of the fog. Seas were calm and glassy. “What is that up ahead?”, I asked. “it looks like a buoy” Jane replied.  “But what’s it doing way out here?” Rich said he thought it was a bird. As we got closer, we realized the object was neither a buoy nor a bird. It was a bundle of mylar balloons! Aha, trash! Captain Rich steered toward the plastic discards and handed me the buoy hook. Alas, we fetched the unicorn-embellished balloons out of the ocean. Hopefully, we prevented a seabird or mammal from getting tangled up in someone’s celebration. Ocean trash is not only unsightly but can be dangerous to sea life. And yes, we did get to see pods of those playful dolphins and a majestic blue whale on that trip.

Unicorn Trash

Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

DAY 2: It being a whole month of Coastal Cleanup, I set out with Jane on our kayaks from Goleta Beach on Labor Day weekend. Knowing we could not stop and linger on this holiday because beaches were only open for those activities that keep your person in motion, we paddled up the coast. The search was ON for tidbits of plastic and other manufactured discards that did not benefit birds and sea life. Those Explore Ecology kids must have been there before us as pickings were slim.

Cleanup via Kayak

Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

DAY 3: The next Coastal Cleanup session took Kris, Sally, Nancy and me to Naples Beach even though we suspected there might not be much trash. This stretch of Gaviota Coast is more remote where the occasional visitors tend to respect the pristine nature here. It was an opportunity to take in some beautiful scenery, jump in the water and check our trash intuition. We hardly found a remnant of undesirable rubble.

Naples Cleanup Crew

Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

DAY 4: Max, Elizabeth, Dianne and Carell contacted me to enlist in the GCC Volunteer Cleanup Core. We met at Refugio State Beach and headed east and west sweeping the sand for treasure and plastic doubloons. This scenic, well-used beach gave us a sense of purpose. We encountered more rubbish than at the other places we scoured. We also discovered a pretty bush with pink flowers growing out of the side of the cliff. I texted a picture to Dr. Lisa Stratton who identified it as the highly-invasive Tamarix! Perhaps we should go on an invasive plant cleanup one day. Meanwhile, we ended up at Naples again for a picnic on this rewarding day.

Refugio Cleanup Crew

Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed


Tamarix Plant

Photo Courtesy of Janet Koed

Nancy and Rich took trash initiative on themselves at Hendry’s

Nancy and Rich's Cleanup Adventure

Thank you to Explore Ecology, Surfrider and ALL volunteers who helped clean up our beaches this month. May each of you help continue the project, on a daily basis, indefinitely.

Janet Koed


Earth Kanji

Earth Kanji

Kanji with black seaweed by Greg Karpain

Kanji: a Japanese system of writing that utilizes characters borrowed or adapted from Chinese writing also: a single character in the kanji system – Merriam Webster Dictionary

What is “Earth Kanji” and what does that have to do with our beautiful Gaviota Coast? This is a blog post inspired by my adventures and explorations on the Gaviota Coast.  I’ve been up in the otherworldly rock and manzanita formations on top of the coast range, all over the Naples ocean bluff, and all the way down along the beach and streams of the coast itself. Every outing brings a thousand new things.

I started viewing and appreciating the Gaviota Coast from both the big vista point of view as well as the “micro” vista point of view.  Every big vista is made up of countless micro bits, very like the strokes of paint on a work of art. 

One day, walking along the beaches, I noticed that the last tide had washed up and “arranged” many different “pictures” consisting of twigs, or seaweed, or a combination of seaweed and colored stones, etc.  When looking at some of these arrangements, I noticed that many of them resembled Japanese and Chinese kanji characters.  A kanji character, in a nutshell, is a language character that has a unique meaning in both Japanese and Chinese. I suddenly had fun thinking that each of these arrangements I found on the beach was, perhaps, a way the earth was speaking to me with its own “Earth Kanji” characters.  So, I began calling them “Earth Kanji” and taking photos of them.  I also noticed that many of these micro arrangements I saw all around me made some of the most beautiful abstracts I had ever seen. 

My Introduction to Kanji

On my 14th birthday, my Mother gave me a copy of a book called the Tao Te Ching written by Lao Tzu. It’s a book of ancient Chinese wisdom. This book was full of lovely old Chinese drawings with these beautiful kanji characters written on the page. The English translation of these fascinating kanji characters was on the facing page. I was so impressed with the “art” of each kanji, that I even made up fake kanji characters on some of my early attempts at painting. Some of my friends asked me where I had learned to write Chinese.  Ha!

As I looked down at these arrangements, those old kanji images came to mind.  What I was actually looking at was a small group of ocean-worn sticks in an arrangement, one that looked like someone put it together that way on purpose. Then I realized that each of those sticks originated up at the top of the range, fallen from a manzanita, or oak, and washed down one of many streams during a storm, and then was bounced around and cleaned and bleached by the ocean, and then put together by the tide and washed up where I happened to walk that day on the Gaviota Coast. A message just for me – right?

Since then, I have had a LOT of fun, noticing wherever I walk, all different varieties of Earth Kanji and taking photos of them.  Of course, there’s no seaweed up on top of the bluffs, or up a hiking trail, but the same kinds of arrangements can be found literally anywhere one looks.  Perhaps a kanji photo could consist of colored stones in the bottom of a clear stream pool, or the colored algae on a weathered orange and brown sandstone boulder, or in the nook of a burned manzanita which is half brilliant Indian red, and the other half black and charred from a fire.

A fun fact: Unlike our alphabet that has 26 letters, the Japanese and Chinese kanji systems have 50,000 kanjis! Just imagine a spelling B using kanji. 50,000 separate characters is admittedly a lot to learn, but we all know that the earth has a lot more than 50,000 kanjis. So far, I haven’t run across the same arrangement twice, and I don’t think I ever will. But I have discovered that there is amazing beauty in all the little Earth Kanji bits that make up every large vista on the coast.

To help you visualize an actual Japanese kanji, here is a chart of some common kanji symbols:

Exercising Our Appreciation Muscles

I continually exercise and expand my “appreciation muscles” by appreciating the ten thousand little bits that make up each “big picture” on the Gaviota Coast. It’s like picking out a favorite painting in a museum and then slowly walking up to it, until my eyes are about 5 inches away from the canvas. The big picture disappears and all I can see is a marvelous and intricate scrabbling and scribbling of magic little lines and colors that are fascinating designs in and of themselves. Each of these little scrabbles and scribbles I think of as kanji.

One day, as I was looking at these mini parts that make up the Gaviota Coast, I thought that perhaps the Earth also is using a kind of Earth Kanji to say things to me, unerring and unassailable things of beauty and love and life. As I “read” the kanji below, this is what is said to me:


The moon makes its own meaning,
perhaps, by not asking.

I have asked,
and then, years later,
learned to listen:

Leaves don’t merely rustle
on a still, hot day
full of raucous light,
they say things,
like the moon,
unerring and unassailable,
simply, by not asking.

With the idea of Earth Kanji now firmly set in mind, I went a-hunting and gathering for some more Earth Kanji to “read.” What was the Earth saying to me today, I wondered?

Below is the next Earth Kanji message I found. I’m still working on the translation. Remember, a kanji isn’t just a letter, it’s a thing, or a concept. Maybe you can figure it out?


After a bit of contemplation, I sensed that the first kanji of this message, the kanji made up of the tar and the rock, was the Earth telling me something about slowing down to “smell the beauty”. Slowing down helped me see the rest of the kanji in this particular message of three. After some time quietly sitting on a boulder cradled by a manzanita, I finally deciphered what it was saying to me:

as this vast peace
consumed me, i turned.
i felt your presence,
as if you were a standing oak,
as if the stream,
singing and giving life
was your love, and my love,
as if the single cry of a bird
was all i have ever known of you

I had my lunch and pondered this new way of hearing and seeing the Earth speak to me.  Then I remembered that magic trick I learned at the museum, that if I simply walk back a few feet, the big picture, which is made out of all the ten thousand little bits, can be seen.  This is what I saw:

the endless going and return;
when the days are this hot,
when the wild grasses are as
much their scent as their form,
we all do reap as we sow.

father, mother, small birds in the sky:
help me to sow myself,
grow me and cut me and grow me
until I am nothing but this red earth
from which I came.

this is my desire.

Returning Home

As it was getting late, and the hot August days were shortening the light, I started back toward home. But I wanted to listen to the Earth tell me one more kanji story before I left.  So, I slowly meandered, randomly peeking here and there, until I saw the next kanji message.


Filled with this final message for the day, I drove home to Carpinteria.  I felt this particular Earth Kanji message keep circulating and refining itself inside me. This one merged itself into me, telling me something I knew I wanted and needed to hear.  But I wanted to be sure I got this one right.  I slept on it.  First light cleared away the marine layer in my mind:

If you place yourself
exactly who and when you are,
as rain blossoms earth,
love will find itself to you.

Be still as sagebrush,
river, stone, and sky.
Think like them.
Open your eyes to moon
until outside comes in.
It will find itself to you.

No matter if you pray,
or not, speak from heart.
Yearn and live in love.
Become a prayer.
It will find itself to you.

Love finds itself to God,
blood flows through veins,
and tears bloom hearts.
Reside inside of love,
and It will bind itself to you.

A Gaviota Coast Conservancy Invitation

I’m pretty sure that many of you reading this have noticed all of the above on your travels. If so, you know how fun it is, and how it fills you up with beauty. I invite you to pass this great way of listening to, and hearing what the earth has to say to us, to your kids on hikes. Photos with phones are fun, but just seeing these Earth Kanjis is as much fun as taking photos. No camera needed. Maybe you, and / or your children would like to send in a blogpost to the GCC website too.  Of course, the Gaviota Coast is a great place to explore. But these days, if it’s too far, don’t let that stop you.  After all, the beauty found on the Gaviota Coast can, and should, be found everywhere around us.  

Finding Earth Kanjis can be as much fun as searching for shells or driftwood on the beach. And now I look for messages wherever I go.  The Earth always answers me. 



Paddle Paradise on the Gaviota Coast

Paddling Paradise, photo courtesy of Ken Pearson


Imagine stepping out your front door, driving to a nice beach on the Gaviota Coast and launching through the small surf to the glassy waters beyond. Does this sound like a Covid-19 fantasy dream? You can do it in REAL life REAL time! We have figured out a safe way to make this happen. Well, “safe” is a transient word in our vocabularies, these days of pandemic, fire and smoke. Just stepping out our front doors involves some risk. If you’re curious about kayaking with us on the Gaviota Coast, read on.

Kayak Launch at Haskell's Beach, photo courtesy of Ken Pearson


On Saturday, October 3, Santa Barbara Adventure Company is offering a guided paddle from Haskell’s Beach to Driftwoods or Seals and back. They deliver kayaks to the water’s edge and shove us off with all the necessary gear. Their experienced guides will stay with us as we paddle up the coast. If the tide allows, we will land on Seals Beach, talk about Gaviota and the work of Gaviota Coast Conservancy, then head back to Haskell’s. The roundtrip is about four hours.

I have made this trip with another outfitter three times, and can tell you it has always been exciting and magical. Once the surf was a bit larger than the usual rolling curls, but we all got out with the help of our guides. The ride back in was very exciting and a few people fell out of their sit-on-top vessels. Those on shore cheered them on and paddlers came up laughing, no worse off than when they started, but wetter. Another time, the water was extremely glassy and the kelp forests flaunted their magnificence. Dolphins appeared! I was most impressed with an 80-year-old woman’s stories of kayaking in Alaska with her son in years past. Yes, she was paddling with us. 

This will be an adventure! Conditions are dictated by Mother Nature. I can tell you it’s a treat to have competent guides deliver all the gear and the safety knowledge they have accumulated with training and experience. I am not a young woman, but I trust these people to get us out there and back in this beautiful place. SB Adventure Co follows procedures for keeping guests distanced and Covid regulated. They instruct all on basic paddling techniques, and help us launch if we want. Call them if you have questions or concerns. Participants should be able to swim, and comfortable in the ocean. Children must be five years or older, and accompanied by a parent or guardian.


Gaviota Coast Conservancy Benefit

Guided Kayak Trip

Cost: $122/person 

Cancellation fees apply 

At least 50% goes to Gaviota Coast Conservancy

Saturday, Oct. 3, 9:30am to approximately 1:30pm

Registration through SB Adventure Co, call 805-884-9283 or click


Mention that your're with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy trip

See you on the coast!


Sea Kelp! Photo courtesy of Ken Pearson


Scenic Trash

Gaviota Coast Conservancy Scenic Highway sign

Gaviota Coast Conservancy Scenic Highway Sign


When you’re driving up the Gaviota Coast you probably don’t notice much trash along the side of the road. That might be because you’re looking at the majestic mountains, the expansive ocean with its alluring islands, or the dreamy clouded sky. In 2016 Gaviota Coast Conservancy worked to get the Gaviota Coast section of Hwy 101 designated as a California Scenic Highway. This designation affords some protection of viewsheds by establishing them as “Scenic.” GCC has adopted 2 miles of this area as trash pick up guardians. One Saturday a month, you can see two or more Board members out there on the side of the road, with their lime green vests, collecting unwanted discards.

When I heard that Richard Hunt and Warren Powers were on volunteer trash patrol August 29, I decided it was a good time to lend a hand. These folks always have good stories to tell about trash. And besides this allure, Warren offered to take me kayaking at Refugio after our work was done. Off I went to meet them at Farren Road where we would shuttle one car up to Dos Pueblos Canyon Rd.

Roadside trash

Roadside Trash


Warren and I head out on the east section of the highway with our “grabber” tools and collection bags. At first, the trash situation looked rather light. As we proceeded up the coast, it became apparent that there were many plastic bottles, fast food cups, black plastic pieces as well as assorted papers like a traffic citation, some home remodel invoices! The abundant black plastic seemed to be parts from old cars or other vehicles.  Warren spots a green racer snake we hope is moving toward the foothills rather than the road. Richard and Skyler have sad reports of owl and hawk carcasses, no doubt victims of the highway traffic. Their bags are filled with trash similar to ours.

The prize on our stretch of highway is a dollar bill Warren found. He has a knack for turning trash into treasure so I can’t wait to hear what he does with the money. Next time you hurl something out of the car on the Gaviota Coast, please include donations larger than $1. Most likely, if you’re reading this, you aren’t someone who casts trash out the car window on purpose. You might prefer to make your donation on our website at Gaviota Coast Conservancy

Trash dollar

Treasure Found


Our bags are left for Caltrans to pick up and deliver to Tajiguas landfill. Warren fantasizes we might return the trash to the doorsteps of those who tossed it out the window.  Our work done, we head for Refugio. The kayaking off Refugio is glorious and we only find one plastic bag out in the ocean. Hurray for only one plastic bag!  The dolphins we see appreciate us keeping our human rubbish in the landfill and keeping single use plastics to a bare minimum if we must use them at all.

September happens to be Coastal Cleanup Month and we encourage you to visit your favorite stretch of coastline and bring some trash back with you. We would love to receive photos of you and your trash to post on our website. If you have a good story, please send that too.

Thank you Gaviota volunteers and supporters!




Terra Firma?

Mike Lunsford & I recently  took a walk on the bluff-top west of Refugio State Park, enjoying a beautiful morning. Mike was a founder and long-time President of the Conservancy and as a career State Park ranger on the Gaviota Coast, knows the terrain well.

Mike and his family lived in a doublewide trailer for a number of years on this bluff top about a quarter mile west of Refugio Beach. When we reached the building site of his former home, it was no longer there. It wasn’t a mystery; that section of the 100-foot-tall bluff  had simple fallen into the ocean. Mike estimated that about 60 feet of the bluff that supported a deck, the doublewide and a single lane access road, had collapsed into the sea since he and his family had moved into the trailer in 1979. That’s an average of about 1 ½ feet per year. Pretty dynamic for something we think is terra firma.

In the cove at Refugio State Park the palm trees bear additional witness to coastal erosion from storms and climate change. The trees were planted about 1928 and developed into an iconic, some would say exotic, landscape. Early photos of the palms show them planted in alluvial soil adjacent, but removed from the water and sand https://goletahistory.com/the-refugio-palms/.

Today those palms are being swamped by climate change with their toes engulfed in sand and sea water.

©Reeve Woolpert / reevewoolpert.com

Exposed Root Balls


The exposed root balls of the trees, higher than my head, were once completely anchored in soil. Palm tree trunks and roots are incredibly fibrous, but the soil that nurtures them is porous, eroding easily given the power of storm surges riding on a rising ocean.

The end result are palms adrift.

©Reeve Woolpert / Reevewoolpert.com

Palms in Storm Surge


Less dramatic, but equally telling in the tales of land lost on the Gaviota Coast are the government survey markers at Naples (aka Santa Barbara Ranch). The marker below was set on the bluff near the ocean by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1927. These benchmarks record survey points the government established when they were mapping the country. The benchmarks were set in bunches of three. The “triangulation station” was the precise point being established. Two other “reference marks” (denoted as “RM”) were set with arrows pointing to the triangulation station. If the triangulation station was lost, the reference marks would point to its location. At Naples the triangulation station was lost to bluff erosion.

©Reeve Woolpert / reevewoolpert.com

©Reeve Woolpert / reevewoolpert.com

Survey Markers at Naples


Many thanks to Reeve Woolpert, photographer extraordinaire, who has documented the Gaviota Coast and provided the Conservancy with his images, knowledge, and good cheer for many years. Reeve tells me that the original government survey of the West Coast of the United States was begun in 1850 near Point Conception, a logical place to start measuring the breadth of this land.

A brief introduction to benchmarks can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survey_marker


GCC Action Alert! Gaviota Culvert Project


You're invited to participate!

WHAT:           Board of Supervisors Hearing on GCC’s appeal of Caltrans Gaviota Culvert Project

WHEN:           Tuesday September 1, 2020

WHERE:         Virtual participation only

CONTACT:           Doug Kern, (805) 222-6184; doug.kern@gaviotacoastconservancy.org

REQUESTED ACTION: Please email the Supervisors at sbcob@co.santa-barbara.ca.us, and/or testify remotely at the Board hearing (suggested talking points below).  Instructions for virtual participation are listed on the Agenda, which is available at https://santabarbara.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx#current (see page 16, Item 3) along with the hearing materials.  Written comments must be submitted by 5pm Monday 8/31 if 1 page or less, or by noon Friday 8/29 if longer than 1 page.

PROJECT OVERVIEW AND KEY ISSUES:  Caltrans has requested County approval of a Development Plan, Coastal Development Permit, and Conditional Use Permit, to authorize the replacement of an existing culvert off Highway 101 in the Canada del Barro drainage on park land just east of Gaviota State Beach Park

Culvert Project Site MapCalTrans HWY 101 Gaviota Culvert Project

The portion of Highway 101 where the Project is proposed has an extraordinary level of wildlife-vehicle conflicts, documented by studies done by Dr. Stratton and others of UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration (CCBER) and Dr. Shilling of UC Davis.  Caltrans’ own Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual[i] identifies culvert replacements as an “opportunity to enhance existing rates of crossing and decrease rates of vehicle-animal collisions if the new culverts are larger than the existing culverts and include wildlife ledges, fencing, and vegetation to enhance their use.”  However, for the Gaviota Culvert, Caltrans maintains (incorrectly) that there are no wildlife corridors to consider, and has declined to accommodate wildlife crossing in its project, even though they propose habitat restoration that could attract additional wildlife to the area. 

Wildlife Deaths near Project Site (Red cluster at bottom of map)

Most of the Project site is zoned for recreation and is currently owned and managed by California State Parks.  Several public trail segments exist on or adjacent to the Project site including the proposed California Coastal Trail (CCT) primary alignment along the coastal bluff, and an existing trail segment north of 101.  As part of the Project, 5 acres of State Park land will be transferred into Caltrans’ jurisdiction for construction and maintenance access, including over 2 acres of the “Gaviota Village” property.  The Gaviota Village property was acquired with funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), Santa Barbara County Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund (CREF), and the Goleta Valley Land Trust, and is deed restricted for use as open space, habitat restoration and conservation, and passive recreation including trails.  Caltrans has not provided adequate information about the proposed transfer, and has not demonstrated that the Project is authorized on the deed restricted portion.  Moreover, Caltrans proposes no recreational amenities or Coastal Trail (CCT) segment to mitigate impacts of the 5-acre loss of state parkland. 

California Coastal Trail near Culvert Project site ((just above the words Figure 4.3 lower left)

The environmental review Caltrans conducted for the Project is clearly inadequate.  The County must rely on Caltrans’ Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), which was prepared and adopted before the Gaviota Coast Plan was fully implemented in the Coastal Zone and without considering its policies.  Since the MND’s adoption, new information of substantial importance including the CCBER and UC Davis wildlife studies and Gaviota Village deed restrictions have come to light and necessitate subsequent environmental review.  New mitigation measures/conditions are necessary to reduce the recreational impact of the land transfer out of State Parks jurisdiction, to reduce indirect and cumulative impacts to wildlife, and to achieve consistency with the Gaviota Coast Plan.  Additionally proposed off-site mitigation in Refugio Creek is adjacent to a Monarch aggregation site which requires evaluation and mitigation.  As a Responsible Agency, the County has a duty to ensure that these environmental impacts are adequately addressed before approving the requested permits.

The Planning Commission approved the Gaviota Culvert Project over the objections of GCC and the Coastal Ranches Conservancy (CRC), downplaying the significance of CCBER’s study and glossing over the land transfer issue.  GCC and CRC each appealed the Planning Commission’s approval to the Board of Supervisors, and are asking that the Board uphold our appeal, direct subsequent environmental review, and support Project modifications to accommodate wildlife passage under Highway 101 and passive recreational uses.   


  • Caltrans’ Highway 101 facilities have severely impacted Gaviota Coast wildlife including bobcat and deer, which have been recently observed at the mouth of the culvert proposed for removal.
  • New expert studies confirm the need to reevaluate the Project’s impacts to wildlife, including whether the proposed habitat restoration activities will attract wildlife and increase wildlife-vehicle collisions.
  • The culvert must be redesigned to accommodate wildlife passage as described in Caltrans’ own Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual.
  • Land under the control of State Parks must not be transferred to Caltrans without offsetting mitigation such as provision of a California Coastal Trail (CCT) segment.
  • Unless and until State Parks has secured approval to transfer or encumber the Gaviota Village property, the transfer is not permissible and the Project cannot proceed as proposed.
  • The Project cannot be approved as proposed due to conflicts with the Gaviota Coast Plan including with recreation policies requiring that existing and proposed trails be preserved and provided for in discretionary development projects, and policies protecting sensitive wildlife and wildlife corridors.
  • The GCC and CRC appeals raise serious flaws in the Project design and environmental review, and should be granted.

Thank you for considering this Action Alert and for making your comments to the Board of Supervisors!

With best regards,

Doug Kern, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Executive Director

[i] Caltrans Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual: https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/files/content/projects/CA_Wildlife%20Crossings%20Guidance_Manual.pdf


Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Program, Public Survey #3

The State is engaged in the Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Program (HRCAP), a planning process to create responsible public access across the 8.5 mile coastline of Hollister Ranch. This planning process began with the 1982 Hollister Ranch Access Plan, which was never implemented.  

This process is proceeding quickly so it is important to make your opinions known now. The State has created the 3rd in a series of online public surveys, this one to examine the HRCAP's Objectives and Evaluation Criteria. We encourage you to read through the HRCAP's eight (8) Objectives and provide input on the Evaluation Criteria at the following link:

Do the Objectives and Evaluation Criteria make sense?  What has been omitted and what ideas will you contribute to make this a better plan?

Make your voice known so this vital link in the California Coastal Trail can be realized.  Sign up at the end of the survey to receive notices and updates.

The California Coastal Commission has a comprehensive website outlining the elements of the present planning process, historical documents, photographs, court records, and more.


Thank you for your participation in this survey, and for making your voice heard in this process!

Executive Director

PS – the Gaviota Coast Conservancy has taken the laboring oar to make public access to Hollister Ranch a reality. Please send a contribution, consider us in your estate planning, or volunteer with GCC. As Peter Douglas immortalized, "the coast is never saved, it’s always being saved."