The rolling hills of Mariano Rancho Preserve sit directly to the north of the coastal city of Ventura, California. They provide unbroken views of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands and effectively kickstart the raw and fabled beauty of driving U.S. Highway 101 northward along the California Coast. The area includes endangered coastal sage scrub habitat and is part of a county-designated wildlife corridor connecting the Ventura River and Santa Clara River watersheds.
These hills had been at the center of dispute since 2002 when a massive housing development was proposed for Mariano Rancho and adjoining land. With nearly 70% of voters opposing the plan, the ballot measure to move this development forward failed, but additional development bids continued to put this landscape at risk.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of many individuals, and buoyed by a wide range public and private funding, the Ventura Land Trust officially purchased 1,645 acres of the Mariano Rancho Preserve in January 2021 and was able to pay off the loan on this investment in November 2023. The State of California provided critical funds to get this project across the finish line, with State Assemblymember Steve Bennett serving as a vocal advocate for conservation, stewardship, and public access to this landscape.
Moving forward, the Land Trust will continue working to develop a free trail system for public recreation in the area, with a focus on protecting wildlife corridors and the endangered coastal sage scrub habitat.