Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve gets $3 million bequest

View south along the bluff at Cambria's Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
View south along the bluff at Cambria's Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. jtarica@thetribunenews.com

Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve has received a bequest of nearly $3 million from the estate of Barbara J. Harootunian, who was a part-time Cambria resident.

Eighty-five percent of the gift will go into a permanently restricted endowment that will be used only to support the preserve’s programs and services. The rest will go into a savings account that will be used to pay operations and planning, such as implementing a forest management plan.

“Having the majority of the generous gift in endowments will provide funds for the ranch far into the future,” said Jo Ellen Butler, the group’s director.

The endowment will be managed by the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation. After being invested for a year, the interest the endowment produces will be available for projects in the ranch and to fund the group’s activities.

The amount of revenue the bequest will generate annually has not yet been determined. The group plans to increase its operating budget for the next three years from its current level of about $60,000 to $100,000.

“The endowment will increase our budget a little bit,” Butler said. “We won’t see any return for a year and only with a good economy.”

Butler described the bequest as a “huge surprise.” Harootunian lived near the ranch and enjoyed walking the trails through the forest and along the coastal bluffs.

“She was a real lover of nature and all of nature’s creatures,” Butler said. “She was a very quiet woman but a very loyal woman in terms of her friends and the causes she supported.”

The 430-acre Fiscalini Ranch Preserve was purchased by Cambrians and other supporters in 2000 to safeguard the ecosystems and open space of the property. The ranch is open to the public and managed by the Cambria Community Services District.