[Adopted by Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs as a guide for drafting the Conservation Easement held by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County on the City’s Bluffs property.]


The community of Carpinteria came together to acquire the Carpinteria Bluffs, recognizing this special parcel of coastal open space for its natural scenic beauty and for the opportunity it provides for people to experience the wonder of nature within city limits.

Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs, a nonprofit organization, worked in partnership with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County to spearhead the acquisition effort. The majority of the fundraising was completed by the Citizens group. The mission statement of Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs states:

The goal of the Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs is to preserve forever the Carpinteria Bluffs as open space.

We use educational and promotional activities to raise public knowledge and appreciation of the Bluffs and its natural features. We aim to ensure that the Bluffs remain an area for active and passive recreation.

As Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs, we assert that the Bluffs property is a symbol larger than itself, a legacy we should bestow to future generations, and a treasure crucial to the quality of the coastline that is worth preserving for all.

The direct benefit to a community from natural open space is often difficult to quantify. Many studies have shown that there is an overall economic benefit to having greenbelts and open spaces in urban areas. Also there is a growing awareness that in nature many aesthetic, ecological, philosophical and spiritual benefits exist that play an essential role in humanity’s well-being. As pressures of population growth and urbanization continue to transform the California landscape, access to nature becomes increasingly important to urban dwellers.

In addition to scenic assets and the opportunities provided for a variety of passive recreational uses, there is growing evidence around the country regarding the importance of wild places such as the Carpinteria Bluffs for the nurturing and growth of children.

As children, we need time to wander, to be outside, to nibble on icicles and watch ants, to build with dirt and sticks in a hollow of the earth, to lie back and contemplate clouds and chickadees. These simple acts forge the connections that define a land of ones own–home and refuge for both girls and boys. Mentors help, answering the questions we bring back from the land. With these childhood experiences we begin. They form the secure foundation to which we return again and again in our struggle to be strong and connected, to be complete.”


The Geography of Childhood— Why Children Need Wild Places
Gary Paul Habhan & Stephen Trimble

Because contact with nature is essential to children and young people and because all of us need it for our fullest development as human beings, preservation of nature within our urban boundaries is as important as providing schools, temples and libraries.


PRINCIPLE #1. The dominant character of the Bluffs will remain forever primarily natural grassland with open spacious vistas of ocean and mountains.

PRINCIPLE #2: Use of the Bluffs, whether in the passive or active recreational areas, shall not be so intense as to have an adverse impact upon the character of the Bluffs.

REASONING: The most consistent comment heard from the community during the acquisition effort and for many years previous was: Instead of developing the Carpinteria Bluffs, let’s save this special parcel of coastal property and keep it as it is. In further discussion, most people translated such comments to mean: Let’s leave the Bluffs a place where people can enjoy nature. Some valued the Bluffs merely for the incredible scenic views they provided of the mountains, the ocean and the Channel Islands. Others regarded the Bluffs as a magnificent outdoor classroom and a source of educational opportunities for students from pre-schools up through adult education. Many valued the Bluffs for the variety of informal, passive outdoor recreational opportunities they provided such as hiking, biking, kite flying and painting. And still others sought the Bluffs for a deeper, spiritual sustenance.


PRINCIPLE #3: Areas of Coastal Sage Scrub and Coastal Bluff Scrub bordering the grassland shall be preserved and maintained forever.

REASONING: These areas are recognized as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat in the City Local Coastal Plan and are a remnant of the natural vegetation which once dominated large areas of coastal California. (See reasoning supporting Principle #7 for a discussion of the value of native habitat.)

PRINCIPLE #4: The eucalyptus grove shall be preserved and maintained in perpetuity. In the event that this becomes impossible and new eucalyptus trees are unable to establish themselves, a replacement grove of native species shall be established.

REASONING: The eucalyptus trees are an important visually aesthetic hallmark of the Bluffs. For many people they also represent a familiar and evocative segment of California rural history. They provide a dramatic contrast to the grasslands. While eucalyptus are not native and do not permit most other species to grow nearby, on balance it has been recognized from inception of the fundraising campaign that the eucalyptus will be preserved for these aesthetic and cultural reasons.

PRINCIPLE #5: Additional native trees shall be introduced to enhance aesthetics and habitat values.

REASONING: The unique views, largely unfettered by development, of ocean to mountains, is a primary preserve goal. The planting of new trees shall not be so extensive that the quality of mountain and ocean views is significantly altered. However, the tamarisk windrows should be gradually replaced with less linear, less invasive “natural” groves of native trees such as oaks, sycamores, and willows. Additional carefully placed small groves could enhance views and the aesthetic experience. For example, a grove or line of trees near the east end of the property would screen the bathroom and accessory building on the property and the large industrial building(s) to the east and any new development to the immediate west of the property.

PRINCIPLE #6: The Bluffs shall remain accessible for passive enjoyment by the public.

REASONING: The Bluffs shall not become a manicured park, nor a horticultural park, nor a park which requires users to stay on marked trails. A major part of the appeal of the Bluffs is freedom-freedom to walk where one pleases, freedom to lie on the grass, to picnic, to run, to meditate in quiet comers. However, it is recognized that during establishment of new planted areas, restrictions could be necessary while new plants establish themselves.

PRINCIPLE #7: The Bluffs shall remain a natural habitat for plants and animals to the extent possible consistent with Principle #6

REASONING: Many people characterized the Bluffs during the fundraising/acquisition efforts as “natural” because of the fact that the grassland, groves and coastal and bluff scrub include a variety of species including many native scrubs and wildflowers and provided mammal and bird habitat and resources. People value the hawks, the kites, the owls, the rabbits, the occasional coyote, the lizards, the butterflies, and the wildflowers currently found at the Bluffs. For these reasons and because of the inherent value of natural habitat the Bluffs preserve shall not be landscaped or planted with any traditional park lawns or ornamental plants. Extensive public access conflicts to some extent with habitat value. Nevertheless, a very productive compromise through the maintenance of existing areas of high species diversity, such as the coastal sage scrub and coastal bluff scrub, and the introduction of native grassland and additional trees, will promote far greater numbers of plants and animals than now exist and will increase human enjoyment of the Bluffs.

PRINCIPLE #8: Local California native plants shall be introduced/re-established throughout the natural area of the Bluffs, as resources permit, with the goal of eventual replacement of non-natives except eucalyptus. Any changes shall be gradual and shall respect the overall character of the Bluffs.

REASONING: Native plants provide much higher habitat value than non-native plants–they have evolved over millennia to fill multiple specific niches, and tend to provide checks and balances which prevent monocultures of domination by one species. The result is a variety of many interesting and colorful flora and fauna. In addition to the greater visual quality presented by a variety of natives–such as wildflower displays — native plants have inherent value because of the increasing extinction of native plant habitats necessary for their continued survival, and the survival of animal species dependent on them, especially in coastal California.

Local California natives should be introduced/re-established on a gradual basis as resources permit. The introduction/re-establishment of native grasses in grassland areas, native trees in limited grove areas, and planned but limited expansion of coastal sage scrub will permit the preservation of spacious Bluffs views and access, with the added benefit of greater color and larger plant and animal populations. Gradual phasing should permit the great majority of the Bluffs to remain open at all times to public access. Gradual phasing should also allow people to become used to the changes in small increments, and allow full education as changes occur. Over time, the importance of natural areas may become even more apparent and natural areas scarcer, causing adequate funding and resources for native introduction to become easier to secure.


PRINCIPLE #9: The playing fields are to be constructed, operated, and maintained in a manner consistent to the extent possible with the Vision Principles for the Passive Preserve (Natural Open Space Area).

PRINCIPLE #10: The size, design and placement of any structure in the recreational area shall be consistent with all foregoing principles and have the least visual impact upon the natural, open space character of the larger preserve.

REASONING FOR BOTH PRINCIPLES: The goal of the public acquisition campaign to save the Carpinteria Bluffs was to save passive, natural open space for aesthetic and environmental reasons, with the provision of active recreation allowed on a limited portion of the property to secure a greatly needed athletic resource. For this reason, playing fields should be integrated into the larger preserve in such a way as to maintain as much as possible the natural, peaceful character of the preserve and its environmental benefits which are the essence of the Natural Open Space principles expressed in the Conservation Values and consistent with current California Coastal Act. policy:

30251. The scenic and visual qualities of coastal areas shall be considered and protected as a resource of public importance. Permitted development shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas, to minimize the alteration of natural landforms, to be visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas and, where feasible, to restore and enhance visual quality in visually degraded areas. New development in highly scenic areas such as those designated in the California Coastline Preservation and Recreation Plan prepared by the Department of Parks and Recreation and by local government shall subordinate to the character of its setting.

This reasoning is the foundation for Conservation Easement restrictions governing the playing fields: the playing fields should be made of growing turf, not “hardscape. ” There are specific restrictions on night lighting and specific limitations to sports equipment, accessories and structures based on the above principles. Certain amenities are appropriate to the reasonable use of the playing fields, such as bathrooms and the existing adjacent parking. However, the basic principle is that the overall purpose of the natural and aesthetic quality of the Bluffs is paramount.

Drafted by Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs
November, 1999

Revised 11-23-99