UCSB and the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County plan to purchase a 68-acre tract of coastal university property called the South Parcel as a part of their extensive conservation efforts.

The land will be preserved as open space in a collaborative endeavor between the university and county to safeguard over 650 acres of land spanning 2.25 miles between Isla Vista and Goleta. Other protected properties include the Sperling and Coronado Butterfly Preserves and the Coal Oil Point Reserve.

If UCSB decides to sell the property, William Abbott — the Conservation Director for Land Trust for Santa Barbara County — said the conservation easement agreement will prevent the land from being developed.

“You cannot walk, run or ride your bike through the South Parcel,” Abbott said. “[Conserving] 650 acres of open space in an urban area — especially so close to the beach — is an accomplishment the community should be proud of.”

Although the plan was first announced over nine years ago, it had to be revised to acknowledge the community’s demands for increased environmental awareness.

According to a press release, the university originally planned to build workforce housing units in both the South and North Parcels, but eventually amended its plans by cutting the number of units in half and moving the project away from the coast. The development was then shifted solely to the North Parcel, leaving the South Parcel free from any possible environmental harm.

In addition to benefiting the city and county, Robert Silsbee, the planning and resource manager for UCSB Administrative Services, said the plan will also yield positive outcomes for the university community.

“There are many benefits to the campus to preserving 652 acres of open space,” Silsbee said. “These benefits include natural resource protection of a variety of grassland, coastal scrub, beach, vernal pool and eucalyptus woodland habitats, as well as preservation of the natural scenic qualities enjoyed by hikers, joggers, surfers, horseback riders and cyclists that visit this unique area.”

Lisa Stratton, who is in charge of managing the South Parcel and implementing its restoration, said the plan is helpful for UCSB from both environmental and educational standpoints.

“Hundreds of students each year gain hands-on experience in these fields working with [the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration] and learning about restoration, research and conducting environmental education for K-12 students.” 

Stratton also said non-native weeds have plagued the South Parcel since the 1960s. Although there will be large costs associated with controlling this problem, she said the university is dedicated to returning the land to its diverse, natural state. UCSB has set aside special funds that will allow for the payment of a long-term site manager that could potentially be matched by the Cheadle Center.

In addition to the South Parcel projects, the university will finally begin construction on the first phase of the Ocean Walk at North Campus, which will have 22 units of faculty housing available for sale. Officials say the project will be completed in 10 to 12 months.