Due to the dearth of rainfall on the North Coast, the hills and valleys around Cambria turn a pale brown for a good share of the year. But within the town limits the color green is prominent 12 months a year, and not just from the iconic Monterey pine forest and other vegetation. Thanks to the “green” promoted by Greenspace, the local land trust that takes buzzwords like “sustainability” and “conservation” to the highest possible levels, much to the benefit of the present community and of future generations.
Now celebrating 25 years of advocacy, research, riparian renewal, grant-writing, tree-planting, creek restoration, community education, open space acquisition and hands-on preservation projects, the legacy of Greenspace is fully reviewed in the recently published book, “Greenspace … So Far.”
Written by current Greenspace President Wayne Attoe (and illustrated with cartoons by Art Van Rhyn), the paperback takes the reader step-by-step, proposal-by-proposal, success-by-success, through the first quarter-century of Greenspace activities.
Attoe notes that the individuals who came up with the initial idea of a land trust for Cambria were “two guys in the building trades,” John Colgan, a contractor, and Rick Hawley, a carpenter.
Along with Rich Davis, Dave Krause, Dave Raff, Ron Wyse, Diane Young and others who were in on the ground floor of Greenspace, the land trust originally set out to create a creekside trail along Santa Rosa Creek. Shortly thereafter, the mission expanded to include open space preservation, creek enhancement and the restoration of steelhead habitat.
Today, the goal continues to be the “protection and enhancement” of “ecological systems, cultural resources, and marine habitats through land acquisition and management, public education and advocacy.”
Along the way there has certainly been controversy, including the antagonism that Greenspace endured in 1993 when the land trust presented the “Santa Rosa Creek Enhancement Plan” to the public. The Cambria Community Services District objected bitterly to that creek enhancement plan.
Notwithstanding the fact that then-Greenspace President Bill Raver assured a public forum that the land trust had no agenda other than preserving the creek corridor, CCSD Director Pat Child lashed out at the organization. Attoe quotes Child as saying, “Greenspace wants the district’s water, wants your land, and wants to keep you from building.”
Also in 1993, CCSD General Manager Dave Andres accused Greenspace of “stepping into political territory” because he claimed Greenspace was attempting to seek support from CCSD board members for the creek restoration project.
Meanwhile, Greenspace has been involved in fighting diseases that attack the Monterey Pine forest, including the “pitch canker” infestation which was first discovered in 1994 by Greenspace and the California Native Plant Society. In order to document the extent of the pitch canker threat, in 1998 Greenspace trained 40 volunteers from Cambria to plot “its extent, locations and patterns of incidence” throughout the entire community.
Greenspace was among the agencies that helped develop disease-resistant Monterey Pine seedlings. Indeed, the land trust in 1998 was hired to “develop programs for capturing, handling, utilizing and disposing of infected pine material” within the zone of infestation. The land trust then traveled to 22 California counties and made presentations on the pitch canker threat to 29 boards of supervisors and city councils in those counties.
Greenspace has also been active in battling development plans that threatened to despoil the rare beauty and agrarian nature of the North Coast and Cambria. To wit, Greenspace had a steady hand in the early efforts that led to the acquisition of what is today the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
Partnering with the North Coast Alliance, Greenspace also was involved in the successful challenge to the Hearst Corporation’s proposal to develop “a Pebble Beach-style resort” at historic Old San Simeon Village. Hearst corporate executives in New York wanted to build “four resorts, a convention center, golf course, housing developments and commercial strips.”
The Greenspace habitat study clearly revealed the ways in which the proposed development would not conform to the California Coastal Act. Subsequently, the development idea was scrapped and an agricultural easement was created over most of the ranch.
For those who would like to view the parcels and properties that Greenspace has acquired and maintained over the past 25 years, there are multiple opportunities in Cambria. The 19th century Chinese Temple, in the East Village on 1.6 acres on Center Street across from the Cambria Historical Museum, was renovated and relocated by Greenspace over the past 14 years. It is on the Greenspace Creekside Reserve open space parcel that features Chinese cultural items and fascinating yet fragile stone piles in Santa Rosa Creek.
Greenspace pocket parks are found throughout the community. Using donations and grant monies, Greenspace has purchased a total of 16 properties for public use and wildlife habitat; among those are 13 pocket parks and three larger parcels (Strawberry Canyon Preserve; Greenspace Creekside Reserve and Quail Hill Preserve).
Pocahontas Park (between Wilton Drive and Ramsey Avenue), donated by the Allen Peters family in 1995, is actually a community garden, which is deer-proofed and provides fresh produce for a number of families. Other pocket parks are simply lovely natural settings for citizens to enjoy as open space and as places to sit quietly and contemplate the enormous bounty of the Monterey pine forest, its stately ambiance and its wildlife inhabitants.
The next public event sponsored by Greenspace will be the Creekside Art Festival from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The land trust is asking local artists and craftspeople to donate their art (valued at under $250) for sale at the event. For more information, call 927-2866.
‘Greenspace ... So Far’ By Wayne Attoe. Paperback. $25. Available for purchase at the Greenspace office (call 927-1626) and for loan from the Cambria Library. More more about Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust, go to www.greenspacecambria.org.
Follow John FitzRandolph on Twitter at @johnfitz44.