The Land Conservancy stepped up in 2011 as a local partner to conserve Wild Cherry Canyon by helping raise a management endowment that the state required prior to acquiring the 2400 acre coastal property as an expansion of Montana de Oro State Park. The Land Conservancy also planned to transfer its connecting property, the 1400-acre Hibberd Preserve, as part of the park expansion and as the missing link to join trails between Avila Beach and Los Osos.
On April 15, project partners announced that the Wild Cherry Canyon lease holders failed to extend the most recent purchase agreement thereby ending the effort to conserve Wild Cherry Canyon as an extension of Montana de Oro State Park. The American Land Conservancy, a national conservation group, spent nearly a decade working to conserve Wild Cherry Canyon as a part of the California State Parks system. An extremely complex albeit exciting conservation project, the acquisition of Wild Cherry Canyon was laden with a variety of dynamic challenges that ultimately could not be overcome in the necessary timeframe.
It is important to realize that the effort to protect Wild Cherry Canyon was worth trying for,” notes Kaila Dettman, Executive Director of The Land Conservancy. “As a community, we value dreaming big about ways to improve our quality of life, and we should be proud that we pursued this visionary conservation project.
The conservation of Wild Cherry Canyon would have increased Montana de Oro State Park by 65% and could have expanded up to 20 miles of coastal trails. However, all is not lost. As a distinct part of the original conservation effort, The Land Conservancy remains hopeful that State Parks will move forward in acquiring the Hibberd Preserve as a smaller expansion of Montana de Oro. This would expand backcountry trails to new areas in the Irish Hills sometime in the future.
The Land Conservancy has contacted every donor who gave money towards the Wild Cherry Canyon endowment. Donors have been given the option to have their charitable contributions refunded or redirected to other local conservation projects.