Little town shows big heart in the face ofgrowth

  • ONE SMALL STEP FOR LAND: Cambrians celebrate the protection of the East West Ranch

    David Middlecamp, The Tribune, San Luis Obispo


Silicon Valley has pumped $50 million into California open space preservation since 1998. But this fall, on California's central coast, residents of the small town of Cambria showed that sheer will also goes a long way in the fight against development.

Hong Kong investors had plans to put over 250 homes on 417 seaside acres in the heart of Cambria. Then in March, most of the town's 6,000 residents joined forces with a state-funded preservation group in an effort to protect the property.

They succeeded: In November, the coalition put the East West Ranch under permanent protection.

"If it wasn't for the tenacity of the local community, this wouldn't have happened," says Carol Arnold, a staffer with the California Coastal Conservancy.

While Arnold's group put up $3.5 million of the needed $11.1 million, locals had to raise $2 million. Cambrians raised half the needed money through a flurry of rummage sales, fun runs and charity dinners. Just before Thanksgiving, a local bank agreed to add land worth $1 million to the East West property and the Coastal Conservancy kicked in matching funds. Other town, state and private groups filled in the remainder of needed funds.

"People are catching on that there's not much left to protect and we better act fast," says Cambria resident Doug Buckmaster, who spearheaded the protection effort.

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