The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County has announced plans to preserve 900 acres behind Pismo Beach and open it to the public.
Called the Pismo Preserve, the land would extend a mile inland and be bounded on the northeast side by Price Canyon Road. The property has about 10 miles of dirt roads and single-track paths that would provide a ready-made trail system for hikers, cyclists and equestrians, said Kaila Dettman, the Land Conservancy’s executive director.
“It is the backdrop to the city of Pismo Beach,” she said. “We see this is an amazing amenity for the community.”
The owner, Brad Wilde of Pismo Beach Coast View LLC, is offering to sell the property for $10 million. The conservancy has tentative offers for that amount but needs to raise an additional $1.7 million to cover other expenses in order to complete the deal by an Aug. 1 deadline.
Other expenses include spending about $1.4 million on public access improvements including a parking lot off Mattie Road and an operating endowment. If all goes as planned, the conservancy hopes to open the property to the public by the spring of 2015.
“One of the reasons this project is exciting is because it offers trails and beautiful coastal views,” said county Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Pismo Beach. “Trails are becoming one of the big reasons visitors are coming to this area.”
The property has historically been used as ranchland with grasslands, oak woodlands and chaparral. Several creeks run through the property providing sycamore and willow riparian corridors. Ridges immediately above Pismo Beach offer sweeping views of the coastline from Point San Luis to Point Sal.
The conservation project enjoys the support of the city of Pismo Beach, Mayor Shelly Higginbotham said.
“The Pismo Preserve is an incredible opportunity for the entire community,” she said. “We will be very excited to be a part of it.”
The land is next to Spanish Springs, one of two developments proposed for Price Canyon.
The Pismo Preserve would provide valuable recreation and open space amenities for those developments.
“Large development projects highlight the need for communities to set aside wild lands for conservation while they still exist,” states a brochure the conservancy has made for the project.
The property would be open from sunrise to sunset, and access would be free. Only passive recreation, such as hiking and biking, would be allowed. No campgrounds are planned.
Based on the extensive use of other nearby open-space reserves, such as San Luis Obispo’s Johnson Ranch, the conservancy estimates that the proposed Pismo Preserve would see more than 3,000 visitors a month.
The project marks a new role for the Land Conservancy in the community. The nonprofit owns a number of large properties that are closed to the public. By owning and managing a property that is open to the public, the group will have greater visibility in the community.
“It’s a great project, and we are really excited,” Dettman said.
If successful, the Pismo Preserve would be a major addition to the area’s open space network, rivaling San Luis Obispo’s 1,000-acre Irish Hills Natural Reserve in size and trails available to the public.
The Pismo project comes less than a year after another ambitious land conservation deal fell through. In April, plans to add 2,400 acres, called Wild Cherry Canyon, to Montaña de Oro State Park foundered when the owners of the property withdrew their offer to sell.
Land Conservation officials say they are confident the same fate will not befall this project. The Pismo project is much simpler than the Wild Cherry Canyon project, which had multiple owners, said Kara Blakeslee, who headed the Wild Cherry Canyon effort and now sits on the Land Conservancy’s board of directors.
“We have a very committed landowner, and having the firm commitment of a landowner can make all the difference in the world,” she said.
Some of the funds that had been earmarked for Wild Cherry Canyon could be used for the Pismo project, Blakeslee said. Agencies with money available for the purchase include the state Coastal Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Board and County Parks.
The Land Conservancy expects annual management costs to be $50,000. An endowment of $1.2 million would be established when the property is purchased to cover those expenses.
For more information about the Land Conservancy, visit the website http://lcslo.org/.
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