Viewpoint

A history of the Cambria Ranch conservation easement

Protection of private land now fenced off was largely paid for with public funds

Special to The CambrianDecember 27, 2012 

Around 1990, the citizenry of Cambria became very active towards self-determination. There was an incorporation study, which showed what we weren't getting from the county. Though incorporation failed to go through, the study culminated in some community awareness. We now had numbers.

Out of that came a 1992 study called, “Cambria Parks, Recreation and Open Space Needs Assessment.” The top four categories were: 1) Open Space, 2) Walkways (including trails), 3) Youth Programs, and 4) Bikeways.

The youth programs were started and organized by the moms, and the Contractors Association popped for the startup costs. Number 3 got handled.

The study spawned the Cambria Community Services District Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee (PROS), which led to the PROS Master Plan of 1994. It included a map of existing trails that were targeted for legitimacy. The trail system through the woods of Cambria Ranch, west of Bridge Street to the graveyard, were so heavily traveled that we planned to connect them to the back of San Simeon State Park, and this trail system is on the 1994 Master Plan map. This led to a trail easement across the north parcels of Liemert for that purpose.

PROS had made contact with the previous owners of Cambria Ranch (CT Ranch), and were discussing the last section of the trail easement to make that connection to the park, when the ranch went into escrow.

Now stay awake, this is the good part.

The Nature Conservancy, which was handling the easement for Covell, did not include any local considerations, so our community’s Master Plan was ignored. But $4 million of the $5 million purchase price for Cambria Ranch was supplied by a CalTrans Transportation Enhancement Activity grant (TEA). When CalTrans builds a road, some money goes into the kitty for public, non-motorized  benefit.

According to TEA Guidelines 1999: “2.3 Eligible Statewide Transportation Enhancement Projects: 1. Provisions of Facilities for Pedestrians and Bicycles.”

How the Nature Conservancy got around this stipulation was by having docent led hikes, once a year. Hardly $4 million worth of “Provisions for Facilities for Pedestrians and Bicycles.” Then the hikes ended, time went by and the fence went up. Who let the dogs out on that one? The Nature Conservancy.

What we have just witnessed was a calculated, long term, abuse of public funds. We have paid $4 million for preservation and public access and have none.

I am asking the Nature Conservancy to come clean and honor the actual intent of The TEA Grant — not how it was originally misused, but for “Provisions of Facilities for Pedestrians and Bicycles” for this community. Talk to us.

The Nature Conservancy contact is: mconner@tnc.org.

And let county Supervisor Gibson know how you feel: bgibson@co.slo.ca.us.

Longtime Cambria resident and contractor John Colgan is a past president of the Cambria Land Conservancy.

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