Readers might or might not be aware Santa Barbara’s coast happens to be the oldest — or at least one of the oldest — most inhabited cities within the United States. Known for its-led community, people from Santa Barbara have worked together to preserve and take good care of their coastal portion for years. Today, almost the entire coast — more than seven miles — is accessible for both locals and foreigners. As Kenny Slaught has previously shown: people from Santa Barbara enjoy taking care of their neighbors and their city.
There is definitely something special about living in one of the edges of the continent: the chance of experiencing the sound of the waves coming ashore, of watching the incredible sunrises and sunsets; the chance of watching and hearing the birds fly along the shoreline, is priceless. Living in Santa Barbara entirely depicts the thin line where the sea and the city merge together; it is such an active coastline unlike any other as it has water, sand, and mountains, which makes the Santa Barbara coast a sanctuary, a playground, a source of inspiration and relaxation.
Few readers might know the stories about coastal areas, specially Santa Barbara, and how it ended up shaping the city people live today. The Chumash people called Santa Barbara home long before the arrival of the European settlers. The main reason why the Chumash to located there is the same reason why locals are still living in Santa Barbara: the ocean. The Chumash were the pioneers of the fishing activities and would live just by the sea. A fleet of European settlers followed the Chumash to the coast driven by the same reason: Santa Barbara was the ideal place due to the mixture of great climate and abundant resources, except for one: lumber. In 1872, the demand for lumber would lead to the creation of the one thing that would simply change the face of Santa Barbara forever: Stearns Wharf. Although its location was privileged due to the access to the sea, Santa Barbara was in terms of connection sort of isolated: there was no railroad yet, and oftentimes, when a storm would appear it would also block the stagecoach accesses and it was impossible for people and freight to get through and enter the city. Thus, the construction of Stearns Wharf jumpstarted the construction of the city as people know it: afterward, it was much easier to unload lumber which also made much easier the construction of the homes and buildings that ended up shaping the community.
As the city grew, and Santa Barbara achieved a certain development degree, a citizen-led movement arose to preserve the entire coastal region. This city was fortunate enough to have been taken care of by its own citizens whether political organizations, common people,, etc. in a proper way. Sometimes through the giving of money and donations, people have been always aware of the need to preserve the coastline for themselves and the public in general.
If readers were to take a look at the historical development of the coastline in terms of public space, they would realize that over the years lots of new public spaces have appeared due to either actions, citizen-led initiatives or simply both. These spaces started to appear just at the very entrance to the city: the refuge. This fact, though it might sound irrelevant, is the perfect exemplification of the spirit of Santa Barbara. For its construction, locals agreed upon donating each the same amount of money to acquire the property, the land, where it is now.
From that point on, the-led actions have not stopped. Some people went on to donate the pavilion, and there has been an ongoing initiative to preserve the shoreline park despite the government-led intents to use that zone for buildings. Shoreline Park is perhaps one of the most magnificent views in Santa Barbara.
Recently, the least developed part of Santa Barbara was saved by citizens who transformed it into a green-grass sanctuary: known as the Wilcox Preserve, this piece of land exists because a group of people, including the Douglas family — yes, Michael Douglas’ family —, helped transfer this land from private to public by gathering money to acquire the land. Now, the greenest part of the shoreline is destined for leisure activities like biking, running, skating, etc.
When it comes to being a good citizen, the city has led by example: as of the year 2000, the city created the creek’s restoration and the water quality improvement program: the first of its kind in the state. Since that time the beach has been undergoing a major restoration process including beach cleanings three times a week, where the city works alongside other non-profit organizations to do beach clean-ups on a monthly basis. There are a lot of volunteers who join forces with these organizations and other figures to take care of the water, the beach, the biodiversity and the community.