The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County took ownership of the Pismo Preserve this week, capping a whirlwind effort to raise more than $12 million to preserve property that will become a spectacular open space and recreational area in the county.
Escrow closed on the property Tuesday.
Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the state Coastal Conservancy, said the deal was the result of a grassroots effort that raised more than $3.5 million in local funding. Schuchat’s agency contributed $4 million to the project.
He described the preserve as “a spectacular slice of the California coast in close proximity to urban populations, including disadvantaged communities in need of more parks.” It is a classic win-win deal, he said.
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San Luis Obispo County contributed $1.5 million to the purchase of the preserve. Supervisor Adam Hill spearheaded the effort and said the money was well-spent.
“We saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be a hugely popular place to ride horses, mountain bikes and to run and hike. It will also be a great benefit to area hotels.”
Now, the nonprofit land trust shifts its efforts to the formidable task of preparing to open the 900-acre property to the public next summer.
“Our job now is to ensure that the site has the necessary amenities, like parking and trail signage, to make it enjoyable and safe place for people to visit,” said Kaila Dettman, the group’s executive director.
The group hopes to keep the costs of the improvements to about $300,000 because local contractors and consultants have offered some of their services free of charge, said Daniel Bohlman, the group’s conservation director.
This effort centers on making improvements to two access points and constructing nearly 12 miles of new trails to add to the existing 10 miles of dirt roads on the property. Both access points are planned for Mattie Road with one for hikers and bikers and the other specifically designed for equestrians.
“We are planning a series of workshops to get input from the community where people can voice their concerns and opinions before the preserve is opened to the public,” Bohlman said.
Facilities planned for these two locations include parking lots, restrooms and picnic areas. The equestrian facility will have corrals and a turnaround for vehicles hauling horse trailers.
The group has hired the engineering and design firm Wallace Group of San Luis Obispo to do the design and permitting. A county permit and a coastal development permit from the state Coastal Commission will be needed to build the improvements.