I am just settling into Santa Barbara and am already feeling the urge to stand up and fight for the open spaces here. I've had a few minutes here and there to pore over some maps and scan the area and start to build a long-term plan on exploring the mountains just to the north of me. I am so excited.
However, it turns out that the peak I decided was going to be my first is being threatened by development. Even in Santa Barbara, where I've heard the zoning is pretty strict when it comes to new development and urban sprawl, there is the potential of losing open spaces.
One of the challenges I've been having here is determining where the trail heads are and whether a peak is on public lands or accessible without crossing private property. My first peak is likely going to be Montecito Peak. It looms above where I live and it is a fairly close drive. I had planned on driving to Camino Cielo and approaching the peak from the north until I read an article in the local newspaper, detailing the fight to save Hot Springs Canyon from development.
Evidently, Montecito Peak is currently on private property and can be accessed via Hot Springs Canyon, which is currently zoned for 6 houses and a day spa and is privately owned. The 462 acres was being offered to the public for $11 million, but now there has been an agreement with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County for $8.5 million. The good news is that local benefactors have stepped up to the plate and donated over $6 million so far towards the preservation of Hot Springs Canyon. The bad news is that time is running out. The sale needs to be completed by December 15th, 2011.
For more information on how you can help visit the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County web page for Hot Springs Canyon.