Springtime, especially May, every year reminds me of how fortunate we all are to have saved the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve as public open space. Every May I am filled with gratitude for the people who worked and donated to protect the Ranch forever.
It was on May 11, 1998, that a town hall meeting was held at the Veterans Memorial Building to announce to Cambrians the intention to buy what was then known as the East West Ranch. In front of a full house, Friends of the RanchLand and the American Land Conservancy explained all the good reasons to “Make the Ranch Ours.”
A short list of the benefits of saving the Ranch was distributed which included the following:
• To provide an area of tranquility and retreat for Cambrians and visitors alike;
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• A place for a community park with playing fields for children and adults;
• Protection of the view shed from Highway 1 and nearby neighborhoods;
• To maintain the availability of historic trails;
• Retirement of competing riparian and appropriative water rights;
• An emergency access road for Lodge and Park Hills;
• Protection of native wildlife populations and native species;
• Stream and fisheries rehabilitation on Santa Rosa Creek;
• To preserve a historic treasure from the last century; and
• To avoid adding more buildable lots to an already over subdivided community.
While these are all very practical reasons for “Saving the Ranch,” I believe that what saved the Ranch had less to do with those practical reasons than its place in the hearts of all who had had the pleasure of spending time there. Locals and travelers from all over the world had long enjoyed walking along the ocean bluff to watch otters at play and whales swimming not far offshore.
The Ranch provided an easy walk for anyone looking for an opportunity to get out of doors. Although bordered by town, it was large enough that walkers could be out of sight of houses and have a chance to enjoy the quietness of nature.
The Ranch has long been a special part of Cambria’s history. Residents from all across the county had benefitted for many years from access to the Ranch. So many people experiencing the beauty and solitude found there understood the importance of the Ranch in their lives on a very emotional level.
In a short film made by Julie Eliason, our beloved Mary Cole expressed perfectly the feelings of so many who helped in the effort to preserve this much-loved open space. She said, “ in years to come, open space and beautiful space like this will become infinitely more valuable, more rare, than anything that any person could build. It will be something that everyone will want to experience. I hope other people will share the dream I have of it becoming open space to share with the public—not only now, but in years to come.”
Although she is no longer with us, Mary lived to see the day that her dream came true. Ten years ago this coming November, the Ranch in the heart of Cambria was purchased and was deeded to the Cambria Community Services District to be held in trust for the people of California and the world.
I have taken a short break in my columns recounting the history of the Ranch, but will be back next month with the next installment. In the meantime, you will have the opportunity to learn more at the upcoming exhibit at the Cambria Historical Museum. The “Ranches and Stewards” display will open with a reception at the museum from 5 to 7 p.m. June 17. A collaboration between the Cambria Historical Society and Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, it will feature a short history of the Estrada’s Rancho Santa Rosa and branch into exhibits showing the histories of the Fiscalini and Hearst Ranches through their protection under separate conservation easements. Events surrounding the opening will include a barbecue followed by a concert by Juni Fisher, award-winning cowgirl balladeer.
Jo Ellen Butler is executive director of Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. RanchUpdate appears in The Cambrian monthly in this, the 10th anniversary year of acquisition of what was then known as the East West Ranch. Contact FFRP at ffrpcambria.org, 927-2856, or P.O. Box 1664, Cambria 93428.