Sand Hill Farm and Eklhorn Slough

The Elkhorn Slough Foundation has sought to acquire the Sand Hill property since 1999.

While Clint Eastwood has been stealing headlines this week after it was announced June 28 that he and his ex-wife Margaret donated 79 acres of land to the Big Sur Land Trust, a story just as big has slipped under the radar. 

On June 29, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation announced that Sand Hill Farm, a 107-acre parcel adjacent to the Elkhorn Slough, was officially acquired by the trust thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy.

As part of the agreement in receiving the grant funds, ESF will spend more than $400,000 over the next seven or so years to restore the property, about 50 acres of which has been used to farm strawberries for decades. 

That land is presently littered with agricultural plastic debris, which must be cleaned up before any permanent restorative efforts can be made with respect to the landscape. (ESF, a nonprofit, welcomes contributions to help undertake that effort.)

Restoring the land has key environmental benefits in multiple ways. First, it will decrease the runoff of nutrient-rich soil into the slough, which promotes the growth of algae and thereby stresses its ecosystem.

Second, it will allow for the land to return to a natural state with a gentler, more contoured slope, and a host of native plants which will serve two purposes: to keep the soil intact and provide valuable wildlife habitat. 

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"Sand Hill Farm is a key parcel that will make a difference in the overall health of the slough," ESF Executive Director Mark Silberstein said in a statement. "We are beginning what we see as the foundation’s next major phase of land acquisition, and we look forward to engaging the community as we move forward in these projects that will truly transform the slough’s landscape and health."

Additionally, Silberstein estimates about 100 acre-feet of water annually will be restored to the aquifer by retiring the land from agricultural uses.  

The Elkhorn Slough, a federal estuarine reserve, is the second biggest estuary in California, and home to sea otters and countless birds and other species. 

While the property won't be immediately open to the public, tours of the Sand Hill Farm site will be offered over the next several months. 

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