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UCSB opens Mesa Trail, completing restoration of the North Campus Open Space

Open Space Restoration UCSB 2.jpg
Beth Thornton
North Campus Open Space project at UCSB restored wetlands and native plants. Trails are open to the public.

With a ceremonial blessing from members of the Barbareno band of Chumash Indians, the Mesa Trail at UC Santa Barbara’s North Campus Open Space (NCOS) opened to the public on May 14.

Opening the Mesa Trail was the final step of a multi-year campus project to restore the wetlands and wildlife area to its natural habitat, according to the university.

The trail is located on 136 acres off Storke Road on what used to be the Ocean Meadows golf course. UCSB acquired the property through a donation from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

“They donated it to the campus in 2013, but of course they weren’t donating a golf course, they were donating the promise of a restoration project,” Lisa Stratton said.

Stratton is director of ecosystem management for UCSB’s Cheadle Center. She said to restore the natural landscape about one million native plants were reintroduced at the site.

Courtesy of UCSB
A map of the North Campus Open Space.

“We hand planted approximately 400,000 of those and the other 600,000 were drill seeded as seeds of perennial bunchgrass, but they’ve come up and they’re succeeding, so we’ve established a million plants,” she said.

Stratton said the wetlands that were filled in for the golf course in the 1960s are now restored as part of the Devereux Slough.

The NCOS project also presented an opportunity to plan ahead and make the area better prepared for rising sea levels.

“We created a place for flood waters to go because one of the climate change impacts we’re all seeing is much more intense storms, and already this area floods,” Stratton said.

Endangered snowy plovers, burrowing owls, and California red-legged frogs are among the many species to potentially live in the restored space.

Access to the area is free and open to the public. Educational opportunities for K-12 students and UCSB research will be ongoing at the site.

Check online for more information about the North Campus Open Space project at UCSB.

Corrected: May 19, 2022 at 3:49 PM PDT
A previous version of this story identified those giving the ceremonial blessing as members of the "Coastal Band of Chumash" when it should have read "members of the Barbareno band of Chumash Indians." We regret the error, and the audio and web story have been corrected.
Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
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