Octagon Barn project in SLO to break ground soon

Pete Jenny, Land Conservancy trustee, directs traffic at a meeting Wednesday to discuss restoration efforts at the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo.
Pete Jenny, Land Conservancy trustee, directs traffic at a meeting Wednesday to discuss restoration efforts at the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo. dsneed@thetribunenews.com

After nearly two decades of planning and restoration, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County hopes to break ground on its planned Octagon Barn event center within the next month or so and to have the barn itself open to the public by next summer or fall.

“This barn is an amazing structure,” said Kaila Dettman, the Land Conservancy’s executive director, during a recent breakfast event at the barn. “We want it to be a community treasure.”

About 50 people attended the breakfast meeting to hear the details of the restoration effort. Located just off Highway 101 at San Luis Obispo’s southern entrance, the barn is one of the county’s most visible historic landmarks.

Restoration of the eight-sided barn as a monument to the county’s agricultural history has been a major project of the Land Conservancy since 1997, when the structure was in danger of collapsing.

In addition to the barn itself, the facility will include a milking barn that will be converted to a museum and educational center, a storage building, restrooms and a trailhead and parking lot for the Bob Jones City to the Sea trail.

The total cost of the project is $4.5 million.

$700,000 Amount remaining to be raised for Octagon Barn’s renovation

Major funding for the Octagon Barn center comes from a state grant and nearly $3 million worth of planned work by San Luis Obispo County to grade and pave the site. Local community members and businesses have also donated to the effort.

In February, San Luis Obispo County supervisors approved plans to build a 4.5-mile stretch of the trail from the Octagon Barn to an existing trailhead and parking area on Ontario Road. Construction of the trail should take about a decade to complete, Dettman said.

The Octagon Barn was built in 1906 and served as a dairy barn for 80 years. It is the only octagon barn in Southern California.

Over the past two decades, the barn has been meticulously restored. The roof with its distinctive louvered cupola was stabilized, and missing shingles were replaced with new redwood shingles from British Columbia.

Thousands of hours of volunteer work went into the restoration effort, Dettman said.

This is an exciting time for the barn. We are so close to opening it to the public.

B.K. Richard, Land Conservancy trustee

The Land Conservancy still needs to raise $700,000 more to complete the project. The group received $206,000 from the city of San Luis Obispo in June and is planning a fundraising drive next year to raise the rest of the money.

“This is an exciting time for the barn,” said B.K. Richard, one of the conservancy’s trustees. “We are so close to opening it to the public.”

The Octagon Barn is one of two major preservation projects the Land Conservancy hopes to open to the public in 2016. The 900-acre Pismo Preserve behind Pismo Beach should open to the public next summer once a parking lot is complete.

That conservation effort required more than $12 million in fundraising.

For more information, go to www.lcslo.org.