We Belong in Wild Places


photo by Shaw Leonard

I was raised in Burbank when the air was thick and the pastures were a distant memory. My father routinely took me to the “wild lands” surrounding the San Fernando Valley, expecially the Santa Monica Mountains. I discovered the marvels of geology at the top of a ridge with an ocean view, where my father showed me the fossils embedded in rocks we were sitting on and described the forces that created our perch. We discovered a mountain lion long after it had perceived us; the reality of a lion in our domain thrilled me then and now. My father showed me tadpoles in the creek and we visited them pond for a month observing the transformation to frog. I learned the value of patient observation.

So I was a city boy, but because I had access to natural landscapes (and a wonderful teacher), I became an armchair naturalist. I camped, fished, hiked, biked, and learned to marvel at the common and ordinary.

I have passed on my father’s gift to me by introducing my children to the natural world and I advocate for public access to that natural world so the same opportunity is not lost to others. Without the direct experience of nature one is a “tenant” on earth, without pride of ownership; a poor steward of our fragile home. So I will argue for the broadest possible public access to the Gaviota region, consistent with the preservation and restoration of our natural heritage. And there is the rub. 

We are part of nature. We belong in wild landscapes, be we change them. The vision of a static nature, pure in form, finished and complete, is a myth. We bring many of the trappings of society with us when we enter uncivilized landscapes. This is perceived as being negative, and it sometimes is. But, we can contribute to the preservation of nature through our understanding of the living earth, gained best from direct experience.

Citizens of our complex and increasingly crowded society are divorced from the natural processes that support them. It is quite possible to intellectually understand these forces. However, that understanding is incomplete without the imprint of direct experience. Appropriate public access provides the stage for this direct experience.

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New Naples Investors

‘Mythical Being’ Wants Naples

Chinese-American Investor David Liu Eying Prized Gaviota Property

 According to the recent story in the Santa Barbara Independent (Feb. 26, 2015), "The long-dormant fight to carve 1,000 acres of breathtaking Gaviota real estate along both sides of Highway 101 into 72 parcels ​— ​a k a the Naples Project ​— ​just woke up. Matt Osgood, whose bankruptcy in 2010 put the development of Santa Barbara Ranch into a state of suspended agitation, is back, hoping to revive his old project with a new ownership structure. Osgood and his brother Mark, a real estate investor, enticed Chinese-American investor David Liu of Arcadia to buy the Naples property for $44.5 million."

According to Gaviota Coast Conservancy board president Phil McKenna, "The Conservancy will continue its opposition to inappropriate residential estate development on the Gaviota Coast. A large tract of over-sized houses is antithetical to our objective of preserving the rural character of the Coast. This has been our position since 1998 and we will continue to actively promote it."

Here's a history of the contentious Naples area from articles in the Santa Barbara Independent. 



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Should Gaviota Go Residential?


(From the Feb. 12 article in the SB Independent by Matt Ketteman): Should a 3,500-acre Gaviota Coast ranch be allowed to reconfigure in a way that would open the door for a handful of new oceanfront homes while also dedicating trails and a parking lot for the public to use? That’s what the Doheny family is seeking to do with their Las Varas Ranch, which is located just east of El Capitan State Beach. But they’re running into a wall of conservationists, who’ve strived for years to keep the stretch of coast undeveloped, and public-access advocates, who don’t think the proposed trails are good enough. The nearly decade-old proposal is scheduled to come before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on February 17, when the Supes could accept the environmental review as is or order deeper analysis of the impacts to farming and recreation.


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