Big Sur is renowned for its wild beauty, rugged coastline and inspiring landscapes. "I'm recharged, to me its like a spiritual experience," says Paul Daniels. It is an experience common to those who come this way, "Study after study shows people keep coming back to this area because, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, 'This is the greatest meeting of land and water on earth,'" Zad Leavy.
It is a haven for creativity and spirituality, a destination for adventurers and a place for those seeking refuge. "No matter how bad the day how bad the week and I can find solace I can find peace," says Paul. Solace and peace are easy to find here and so are empty beaches, flower-filled fields and majestic forests.
"There are Redwoods here that rival those on the North Coast," says Zad. From the land, from the water, from the air, from any angle and in any season, Big Sur is stunning. And fortunately much of it is protected for all of us to enjoy.
"It's terrific, the views are fabulous, it's a wonderful treat," says Pacific Grove resident Jim Quinn. Many of the spectacular views and much of Big Sur's beauty have remained relatively unchanged over the years thanks in large part to one organization – the Big Sur Land Trust. "I'm really proud of the difference we've made in this landscape," says Zad.
Executive Director Zad Leavy helped found this non-profit organization in 1978 and has been working to preserve the area's natural resources ever since. You start with a little bit of passion you mix a lot of legal work and patience in with it and eventually it all comes together," says Zad.
And all the patience and hard work has paid off. To date, the Big Sur Land Trust has managed to preserve over 30 thousand acres through government grants and donations. In this trip, we visit three of the Big Sur Land Trust’s properties beginning at Glen Deven Ranch about 10 miles south of Carmel. We’ll then explore the dramatic coastline at historic Notley’s Landing. And finally, we travel to the land trust’s most recent and largest addition, Palo Corona Ranch.
Our first stop takes us to the top of a ridge at Glen Deven Ranch, a 900 acres property donated to the land trust in 2000. "We started talking with the owners of this ranch 25 years ago. Their desire then was to find a way to preserve it in perpetuity," Zad explains. On this day, we join a group from the Pacifica Rotary Club visiting the property on one of the Big Sur Land Trusts’ docent-led hikes.
The Big Sur Land Trust organizes dozens of hikes each year to give people a chance to get closer to the land and learn a little about the area’s history.
"There were native Americans the Esselen Indians and the Ohlone Indians and they were healthy prosperous people because there was lots of resources here," says Zad. These days, Glen Deven's natural resources are maintained by the Big Sur Land Trust as a private reserve open to the public by appointment.
From here, you can see another piece of Big Sur Land Trust property called Notley’s Landing. It was once a commercial settlement of 500 people who used to work up in the forest and lime kilm areas, taking out limestone, taking out redwood, and taking out cattle. From roughly 1880 to 1920 Notley's Landing was a thriving sea port. "So in 1906 to 1910 San Francisco was rebuilt after the earthquake out of this coast and the Santa Cruz coast using the redwood and the limestone to rebuild the city," says Zad.
Today, virtually all evidence of Notley’s Landing has disappeared. "In less than a century, all the manzanitas have returned and nature has taken over," says Zad. Notley's Landing is just one example of the many coastal areas the Big Sur Land Trust has protected. "Those rocks over there that the public walks on near the Rocky Point Restaurant are all open and available to the public, they won’t be built on,” says Zad.
And one of the first sights visitors see when they come to Big Sur is the land trust’s most recent and largest acquisition, Palo Corona Ranch.0 thousand acres ten mile long corridor between Carmel on the north and the Los Padres National Forest in the south,” explains Zad.
As we make our way through the ranch, we are surrounded by wide open green meadows, colorful wildflowers and steep hills leading to spectacular vistas. This huge piece of land was obtained after years of hard fought negotiations, thousands of dollars in public donations and the help of one famous benefactor.
"It connects with the coast ranch which Clint Eastwood helped us obtain which is an agricultural preserve," Zad explains. In addition to restoring the land's agricultural roots, the trust is also working with the state parks system to restore this area to its original natural state.
"And that will provide more habitat for steelhead for other marine mammals for other waterfowl and other marine life on the west side of the highway," says Zad. The acquisition of Palo Corona Ranch completes one of the land trust’s goals in preserving a large portion of the Big Sur coast for public use. It provides access to Carmel to the Hearst Castle. Zad hopes the legacy of the Big Sur Land Trust will be more land preserved for future generations to be proud of.