Organization has enough money to buy San Marcos Foothills Preserve
The Foothills Forever campaign has completed its $18.6 million fundraising goal, clinching a 90-day effort that will prevent the San Marcos Foothill Preserve from undergoing development.
With the help of more than 5,500 donors, Save the San Marcos Foothills is now able to purchase the West Mesa of the San Marcos Foothills from the Chadmar Group, a firm of developers who were planning to build multiple multi-million dollar homes on the property.
The fundraising goal was reached Tuesday.
Activists negotiated with the Chadmar Group back in March, and the developers agreed to give the Save the San Marcos Foothills group 90 days to come up with the funds. The Foothills Forever campaign was born from this agreement.
The group’s initial fundraising deadline was June 2, but activists received an extension through Wednesday to complete their efforts.
Foothills Forever reached its goal a day ahead of the new deadline.
The organization’s land purchase will create 300 acres of contiguous space for wildlife habitat while honoring the Chumash natives who once inhabited the area, according to the campaign website.
Mary Rose, the Foothills Forever campaign organizer, called the past 90 days a “whirlwind.”
Ms. Rose added that she is grateful for the community’s support to preserve the foothills.
“I’m in awe of this community being able to come together so quickly to make this happen, and just (thankful) knowing that the strong support is out there for preserving our open spaces out here,” Ms. Rose told the News-Press Wednesday.
Ken Owen, the executive director for Channel Islands Restoration, said he experienced many emotions when the campaign reached its fundraising goal.
Back in 2019, Mr. Owen and Channel Islands Restoration began negotiations with the developer to save the preserve. Now, seeing the funds raised to purchase the land gives Mr. Owen a sense of “great joy” and even greater responsibility.
With the land purchased, Channel Islands Restoration plans to bring in sheep to graze during the rainy season to heal the ecology of the grassland, with the secondary benefit of reducing the amount of fire fuel in the area, Mr. Owen told the News-Press.
Activists are also turning their attention to the formation of a stewardship committee or coalition who would oversee the preservation of the land for years to come.
Mr. Owen said the campaign is seeking feedback from community members and the Chumash who have ties to the land.
“(The next step) is really to start listening to the community, and that includes the Native American community and other people who have used the property, especially during the pandemic,” Mr. Owen said.
He continued, “We as an organization need to build our capacity in order to be able to fund ongoing costs associated with managing the land and building an endowment so that there can be a source of funding for ongoing sheep grazing and other preservation activities. But we really have to hear from the community before we can actually plan these.”
With the first phase of fundraising complete, the Foothills Forever campaign is turning its attention to completing its phase two, which will raise funds to retire short and long-term loans, create an endowment fund and pay any final costs.
For more information on the campaign or sign up for the campaign’s email list, visit foothillsforever.org.