North Campus Opens Space Restoration

Photo by Hannah Maerowitz | Staff Writer

Hannah Maerowitz
Staff Writer

After a $7 million land purchase, the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) is beginning to see progress in restoring the North Campus Open Space to its natural state.

After CCBER encouraged the Trust for Public Land to purchase the land, it was donated to UCSB with plans of a future restoration in mind.

The area was most recently home to the Ocean Meadows Golf Course, which closed in 2013. Due to decades of sediment buildup from past agriculture combined with the topographical changes caused by the golf course construction, it’s now impossible to restore the land to a completely natural state.

However, the goal of this project is to restore the area to the fullest possible extent. The goals for the large scale restoration project involve a balance between rehabilitation of the land and management concerns.

“The golf course increased localized flooding and shrunk the wetlands, which resulted in decreased water quality. The reclaimed water used to irrigate the golf course also caused harmful algal blooms and diminished scarce water resources,” said Lisa Stratton, CCBER’s director of Ecosystem Management, in an interview with The Bottom Line.

The restoration project centers around mitigating damage to the land caused by surrounding development, while also considering the environment the land is a part of —an environment that includes people.

As a result, many of the restoration project goals are environmental like decreasing flood elevations, creating space for salt marsh habitats to transgress to combat sea level rise, and guaranteeing access to water for wildlife.

Other goals, such as providing access to the open space from houses and bus stops and improving water quality at Sands Beach, are more human-focused.

The project is currently in the midst of trail and bridge construction. Planting will begin in the next few months, and CCBER aims to complete the restoration in the coming year.

“We will probably continue to plant or restore for the next two years. A project like this requires close monitoring, and there are always things that need to be done. But we hope to open the main trail to the public in October as we complete the restoration process,” Stratton said. 

Despite concerns about high salinity levels in the soil, planting efforts have been successful and have already shown results.

“It’s exciting to see endangered species breeding and interacting with a habitat that we’ve restored for them,” Stratton said. “It’s also satisfying to bring back landforms and connect them to the larger coastal open space.”

The leaders of the project are currently working on building an endowment in order to ensure long term success of the project. Most of the grant funding for the project has been used up by construction, so additional funding for landscape maintenance will be required. Some of that funding will be acquired by naming bridges, overlooks, and trails after donors.

Students and scientists have transformed the land topographically, while also transforming it into a research site. Wildlife photography and investigations into carbon cycling and hydrology are just a few of the projects that have grown out of the larger restoration project.

As 60 student employees and scientists passionately restore the North Campus Open Space, they are creating what Stratton called a “laboratory in perpetuity.” This restoration is fueled by an uncharacteristically symbiotic relationship between humans and the land.