Cambrian: Opinion

'A passionate love of place' is crucial to preserving Fiscalini Ranch

"A  passionate love of place” is how Bill Morem, former editor of the Cambrian, characterized the zeal with which the Ranch was saved from development about 15 years ago. Going through old newspaper articles and papers at the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) office allowed me to revisit those early days and reflect on how much has changed since we “just wanted the Ranch to remain the same.”  

We find ourselves, 15 years later, looking at a different place, mostly because of the popularity of this beautiful piece of coast entrusted to us.  

Each week, hundreds of visitors, including hikers, runners, bicyclists, equestrians, people with disabilities and people walking their dogs use the trails on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Many locals walk the Ranch every single day. With so many types of trails and users, it is important that all visitors understand how to share the trails with others so that everyone can have a safe, pleasant experience. 

Increased use since the Ranch purchase has led to some user conflict that needs to be remedied, one example being the complaints and ensuing change in equestrian use required by the county Planning Commission with the Master Environmental Impact Report for the Ranch. Horseback riding became limited to certain trails and numbers of people, with a permit required from the CCSD ranch manager. 

In order to reduce our footprint (literally!), we need to begin to mark designated trails and give up the crosscut trails that have become so prominent in the grasslands on the Ranch, but are also beginning to occur within the forest where trees and understory are becoming trampled by off-trail walkers and bikers. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Parks Recreation and Open Space, CCSD and Beautify Cambria are working on ways of marking trails and unobtrusive signage to accomplish this.

The sandy loam soil of the ocean bluffs has always been bare of vegetation in some places, and the lack of greenery seems to encourage people to walk to the very edge to see what they can see. The increased traffic to the bluff edges not only poses the danger of a viewer collapsing the fragile edge and falling off, but it also compacts the soil, making it even harder for plants to grow there, encouraging more trips to the edge … and you can see the vicious circle forming here. We are looking at various ways of protecting the very edge of the Ranch and minimizing visual impact while we re-establish native plants. Ironically, nobody wants to walk to the edge where they have to walk through invasive ice plant! 

There have been steadily increasing complaints of injury to both people and pets and wildlife by unmanageable dogs. Realizing that most dog owners are responsible people, it is still a big problem. We are presently in discussion with the CCSD, Ranch manager and others about this. In the course of our discussions, it has come to light that the county leash law applies to the Ranch property. We are in the midst of trying to find out what this means for the Ranch and our past “off and on leash” policies, but ultimately we will need to obey the law.

The forest is being impacted by drought and disease. Collaboration is in the works for a grant that would remove dead and dying trees throughout Cambria and provide for replanting native Monterey pines and understory. Nonprofits and agencies involved are CCSD, FFRP, Greenspace, Fire Safe Council, Cambria Forest Committee, Cambria Fire Department and Cal Fire. We also hope to participate in a fog drip study with Beautify Cambria, the Cambria Forest Committee and Greenspace.

We all have that passionate love of place for the Ranch that Bill Morem spoke of in 1999. We all also want what we want! Sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want for something we love. A passionate love of the Ranch is what it’s going to take to get through this and other issues we will face in the future. 

Volunteer at Ranch

  • Saturday, March 14, 9 a.m.: At Santa Rosa Catholic Church, volunteers will be washing vases for the Cambria Wildflower Show until we run out of recycled water, run out of vases or people start wandering off.
  • Saturday, March 21, 9 a.m.: We will be applying wood chips to established trails to help distinguish them from ad hoc trail.  
  • Friday-Sunday, April 24-26: Many volunteer positions are open for the Cambria Wildflower Show.