MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Douglas Family Preserve, Part 2
Today almost no one remembers Medzikhovsky, the Russian with his carefully waxed moustache and military bearing, but longtime Mesa residents remember the Wilcox nursery property (1949-1972) as an area of fields where cows grazed during the day, and teenagers held parties at night.
From 1972 until 1996, there was a 25-year-long tug-of-war between developers who proposed several different projects for the land, and Santa Barbara residents who wanted to preserve "the last wild piece of coast in Santa Barbara." Finally, in January, 1996, preservation groups were given a deadline of just six weeks in which to raise $3.5 million to save the open land. Former Mesa resident, Susan Belloni, ad hoc coordinator for the Friends of the Douglas Family Preserve, said, "We had backyard English tea fundraisers, jog-a-thons, art sales, music fundraisers, butterfly tours, we handed out pledge cards at Las Positas and Cliff Drive during rush hour, sold red tropical flowers there, too, for Valentine's Day; children sold $10 glasses of juice, a huge banner went up on the freeway overpass with a pledge phone number to call, there were penny jars at stores all over town, and I even remember counting some of them at Sue and Jim Higman's, who were the real backbone of SWAP [Small Wilderness Area Preserve] and without whom, perhaps none of it would have happened. It was a huge Santa Barbara community effort and it succeeded."
In the end, the preservationists won by sheer persistence, and a public who supported them with pennies, dollars, and a large check from actor Michael Douglas. The park became an off-leash area for dogs in 2004. (Image: Betsy J. Green)