Cambrian: Opinion

Largest land donation ever to Greenspace preserves Hwy. 1 viewshed

A Google Earth aerial shows Highway 1 to the right, and the new forest preserve on the left, outlined in red.
A Google Earth aerial shows Highway 1 to the right, and the new forest preserve on the left, outlined in red.

‘Cambria Pines by the Sea” became a marketing slogan in the 1930s, along with “Where Pines Meet the Sea,” and “Pines Touch the Sea.” A lifestyle was also promoted, “a veritable Eden for vacationists, sportsmen and lovers of Nature,” along with healthful living (“pine balsam and ocean ozone”). The pines were an integral part of the experience promised to vacationers, second-home owners and prospective residents. Lots were offered for $100 (or 17 cents a day with a small down payment).

Eighty years later, people still expect pines here, and protecting the pines became a focal concern in the mid-20th century. This happened in part because Monterey pine is now a rare species, in part because its genetic diversity is limited — and also because it is a signature element of Cambria’s identity and local tourism.

The first chance to fulfill a visitor’s expectation of Cambria pines is, from the south, the viewshed from Highway 1 driving up the slope to the intersection of Main Street and Ardath Drive. The approach used to be along a curving road; now it’s a straight shot. The slope has been called Dawson Grade, and sometimes Fiscalini Grade. To the west the view of the famous forest is dotted with homes.

Greenspace is pleased to announce protection of a five-acre stand of Monterey pines there, readily seen from the highway. Called “Fitzwater Canyon,” its conservation is due to the generosity of the late Harold Fitzwater and his wife, Margaret Randall. Greenspace now owns and will protect this wildlife-friendly forest tract with characteristic understory and tall trees. While there is access from Pickwick and Londonderry lanes, for the most part the property backs up to homes, and will be maintained as a natural forest enhancing the Highway 1 viewshed.

“Viewshed” is a quite modern term. It was coined to describe what someone sees from a particular vantage point, in this case, Highway 1. In 1965 the route was designated a Scenic Highway and then an All American Road in 1996. Farther north, the highway sweeps through a large forest stand, skirting the village. That bypass was completed in 1964, and the view from it is protected as part of the Fern Canyon Preserve and the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Fitzwater Canyon is the largest donation of land in Greenspace history. (Other acquisitions have been larger, but were purchased, not donated.) Property owners from the area and Greenspace directors have contributed to an endowment fund for maintenance of the Canyon. All Greenspace properties benefit similarly with funds set aside for upkeep.

Fitzwater Canyon brings the total of pocket parks, open space, and forest reserves owned by Greenspace to 19. New pocket parks are in the works.