Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
A heard of goats and sheep graze near the bluffs in Half Moon Bay as part of the Coastside Land Trust’s conservation efforts.
For six days, a large group of goats and sheep indulged in a meal of coastal brush and grass after being herded toward the bluffs between Poplar and Kelly state beaches in Half Moon Bay.
The goats and sheep are used to mow down overgrown vegetation and reduce fire hazards. The nonprofit Coastside Land Trust hired these hungry grazers to help preserve some of the city’s historic open spaces.
“Half Moon Bay and the San Mateo coast have such rich and diverse open spaces. They are enjoyed not only by the people who live in the areas, but by people from all over the Bay Area who come down for a trip to do some ecotourism or to get out of the city and enjoy open spaces,” said Eric Rutledge, administrative assistant to the CSLT.
Half Moon Bay relies on the preservation of its environment and the tourism it attracts. Balancing land developments with ecological conservation is critical to ensuring healthy economies along the San Mateo County coastline.
Construction of the Ocean Shore Railroad began in the early 1900s with intentions of running from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. But after the 1906 earthquake, development stopped and the San Mateo County portion of the tracks was divided up and used for commercial, residential and agricultural purposes, Rutledge said.
In 1997, a proposed condominium development along a stretch of the Ocean Shore Railroad inspired a group of Half Moon Bay residents to form the CSLT. By raising enough funds, the nonprofit was able to purchase the property for the city and created its first conservation easement, Rutledge said.
The CSLT adopts environmentally valuable land, often near coastal bluffs or river corridors suitable for endangered species habitat. Although the city or individuals legally own the land, the CSLT assists in protecting it from destructive developments, Rutledge said.
“As a conservation easement holder, we monitor the property once a year. We steward the property as best we can and restore the property back to its most natural state if it happens to be disturbed,” Rutledge said.
With increasing populations in the Bay Area and San Mateo County, coastal land faces continued pressure for commercial and residential developments, Rutledge said. Bay Area residents are envisioning the coast as more than just a nice place to visit, they’re moving to these secluded cities.
The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that from the years 2000 to 2020, Half Moon Bay will face a 50 percent population increase, more than any other city in the area. The CSLT intends to safeguard the valuable open spaces that encourage people’s admiration for coastal life.
Patricia Chimienti moved to her Half Moon Bay home 1989 and adores living just feet from the beach. With panoramic ocean views, front-row seats to nightly sunsets and a friendly community, Chimienti said what’s not to love? Being able to live a country lifestyle while still remaining close to the city makes Half Moon Bay her ideal home, Chimienti said. Chimienti grew more appreciative of the city and the CSLT’s efforts this week as she overlooked the grazing goats and sheep from her deck.
“I’m glad they didn’t develop this area. I’m glad the city bought it and they’re making it a fun effort to support it,” Chimienti said.
The city of Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County and the CSLT all make use of the environmentally friendly grazing technique.
They’d like to bring the goats back every year, but it can cost between $3,000 and $6,000; so raising funds from their supporters is crucial, Rutledge said. Through the “Get Your Goat” campaign, a $10 donation will sponsor a goat or sheep.
On Saturday, the CSLT invites the public to join them in finishing off what the goats and sheep left behind. Volunteers will gather on the corner of Garcia and Potter avenues to pick up trash and recyclables that were uncovered by the animals’ grazing, remove invasive plants and sow native wildflower and grass seeds into the area.
The CSLT runs primarily on individual donations and community support. But it has received grants from the state Coastal Conservancy and recently acquired 50 acres of land it plans on protecting through conservation easements just south of the Seymour Bridge in Half Moon Bay.
“Ecotourism here on the coast is huge and is very important. The reason people are coming here is to enjoy the open spaces, so it’s very logical that if the open spaces weren’t here, they would go somewhere else. If we can permanently protect the land through our conservation easements, then that would continue to allow people to visit and enjoy the coastside,” Rutledge said.
You can support the CSLT through tax-deductible contributions, by volunteering or by donating a car, RV, boat, land or a conservation easement. For more information about the CSLT visit www.coastsidelandtrust.org or contact Eric Rutledge at email@example.com.