Nature Trust of the Santa Monica Mountains
Accomplishments 2000 to 2005: Making a Difference
A. Land Protection
To protect Nicholas Canyon from further development the Nature Trust in 2000 transferred approximately 180 acres within the central and upper part of the watershed to Leo Carillo State Park. The land consisted of the creek itself, sycamore and oak woodland vegetation and the adjacent chaparral-covered slopes.
The transfer included retirement of pre-Coastal but County-approved development impacts consisting of a clubhouse, 5 cabins of 1,000 sq.ft. each, a pool, recreational facilities and associated roads and grading within the sycamore-oak woodland adjacent to the creek.
Instrumental in funding the transfer were State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavky. An additional 20-acre portion of the creek to the south of the above parcel was acquired form the Nature Trust by Leo Carillo State Park in 2003. This retired 8 cabins/residential units approved by the County of Los Angeles in 1973.
An easterly 20-acre parcel was encumbered during the same year with a conservation easement in favor of the County of Los Angeles pursuant to a Habitat Conservation Fund grant in the amount of $356,000 and a $172,000 Proposition A grant.
This retired permitted intensive development visible from surrounding park land.
Tennis courts, barns and corral, a swimming pool and limited recreational facilities already exist at the more level remaining 100-acre parcel of the present Riding and Tennis Club and Nature Center below the 300-foot elevation line much of which is not designated as an ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area) according to the approved Local Coastal Plan fort he City of Malibu.
The Nature Trust will relocate the remaining vested but not yet finalized development impacts approved by the Coastal Commission (1973) and the County of Los Angeles (1974) within the more riparian area of this 100-acre parcel onto areas largely already developed with roads within the existing development footprint of the Riding and Tennis Club.
The purpose of the present CUP is to continue the operation of the Malibu Riding and Tennis Club and related recreational facilities and activities under the stewardship of the Nature Trust.
B. Site Restoration
Meaningful protection of the remaining undeveloped central section of Nicholas Canyon watershed still in private ownership has been in the planning stages for many years as outlined in the Nicholas Canyon Watershed Restoration Plan prepared in March 2002 by Wildland Resource Scientist Dr. Klaus Radtke.
It can best be accomplished through the purchase of the 172-acre Freshman parcel that would prevent further uphill site development within the watershed. The lower section of the watershed within the remaining 100-acre parcel adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway is not designated as ESHA under the 2001 Certified Local Coastal Plan of the City of Malibu because of previously approved and partially constructed development impacts and the disjunct native vegetation.
Through matching funds received by private donors, the Nature Trust in 2004 nevertheless embarked on an intensive restoration program within the boundaries of the former Riding and Tennis Club property in this area of the watershed through the removal of non-native vegetation. When the site received its initial permit approvals in 1973 and 1974, Myoporum trees were planted as the primary foundation plant landscape component throughout the site and adjacent properties, apparently to assure quick cover on manufactured slopes and screening greenery throughout.
Pines such as Canary Island and Aleppo as well as Eucalyptus species were also added to the landscape mix at that time. These trees, as they grew, often competed with native plants and also expanded within the riparian corridor, crowding out sycamores, oaks, and willows. The 1985 Decker Fire burned the whole watershed and probably was one of the triggering mechanisms for the expansion of Myoporum and Canary Island pine trees within the riparian areas.
Since that time long drought periods, the age of the Myoporum trees, and the attempt of the Nature Trust to minimize watering of its extensive Myoporum-covered slopes with well water has led to the slow decline of many of the Myoporum trees while the pines prospered nevertheless.
In late 2004 large professional tree maintenance and pruning crews started the phased removal of all Myoporum and pine trees within the riparian/woodland corridor and the selective removal of the same on manufactured slopes. Two 24-inch brush chippers were kept busy for two full days to chip the cut trees. Wood chips were blown back on the hillside for mulch and slope protection where feasible (except chippings consisting of Canary Island pine needles) or were stored to be spread later.
Prior to tree removal native plants were flagged to protect them so as to make them part of a transition to a native plant landscape setting enhanced by Coast Live Oaks. The oaks will be selectively planted on slopes were Myoporum trees were removed. This will be an ongoing restoration project.
Goals for 2005 and Beyond: Continuing our Goal of Making a Difference
A. CUP (Conditional Use Permit)
The Nature Trust is looking forward to closely working with the City of Malibu and the Coastal Commission in renewing its CUP for the Nature Trust-administered Riding and Tennis Club in a way that protects the natural resources of the site and the adjacent pristine State and County beaches and their water quality.
The Nature Trust is also looking forward to expanding and realizing its goal of outdoor nature based recreation as specified in the City of Malibu LCP (Local Coastal Program) and certified by the California Coastal Commission in January 2002 through an environmentally sensitive land use planning and permitting process.
B. Protection of Significant Nicholas Canyon Coastal Watershed, Pristine Beaches
The Nature Trust has diligently tried to protect the San Nicholas Canyon watershed in perpetuity and has encouraged adjacent landowners to do the same. The still largely pristine Nicholas Canyon watershed comprises approximately 875 acres extending from its headwaters at Nicholas Flat Natural Area within Leo Carrillo State Park to its confluence at the Pacific Ocean within Nicholas Canyon County Beach.
The original 280-acre Malibu Riding and Tennis Club, comprising the lower eastern half of the watershed was acquired first by the Mountains Restoration Trust in 1997 and subsequently transferred to the Nature Trust of the Santa Monica Mountains in 2000.
Phase 1 of the Nature Trust's Nicholas Canyon watershed protection plan was realized with the acquisition of the central eastern half of the watershed. Completion of the protection of the remaining watershed and its downstream still pristine beaches would be accomplished through the purchase the central western half of the watershed, the 172-acre Freshman parcel.
The parcel includes Freshman Creek, an approximately 3,000-foot- long blueline creek, a direct tributary to central Nicholas Canyon. Protecting this parcel from development would also extend protection to the downstream riparian Nicholas Canyon stream corridor and the still pristine Nicholas County Beach and adjacent Leo Carrillo State Park beach.
These beaches regularly receive an "A+" water quality report card from Heal the Bay compared to most other beaches in the Malibu and Santa Monica area that often receive poor or even failing grades. The 1996 General Plan for the Leo Carrillo State Beach indicates that the Nature Trust property is considered private recreation land compatible with the mission of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The stated mission is to provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state's extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.
C. Site Restoration & Improvements
These are labor-intensive ongoing projects.