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Source: Wikipedia

Hollister Ranch

The region presently known as the Hollister Ranch is defined by 14,400 acres of fallow and fertile fields, mountains and valleys along the Pacific Ocean of California between Gaviota State Park canyon and Point Conception. It was the site of some of the oldest known human settlements in the new world, the last "native" population of which was the Chumash, including two villages. It became part of the extensive Spanish land grant known as Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, operated by the family of José Francisco Ortega from 1794.

The land was purchased by William Welles Hollister after the Civil War as part of vast acquisitions whose center was originally located at Glen Annie, Tecolotito canyon.

Cattle ranching history

A cattle ranch since the days of the Ortegas, Hollister Ranch is the fourth largest cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County having shipped over 1,500,000 pounds of beef in the summer of 2005. As a result of the Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association CC&Rs, Santa Barbara County zoning and California’s Agricultural Preserve Program, when fully built out, over 98% of the property will continue to be devoted to well managed and sensitive cattle grazing. Other benefits to Hollister Ranch owners as a result of the cattle operation include a reduced fuel load in the event of range fire and the tax benefits that result from adherence to the restrictions imposed by the Uniform Rules of the Agricultural Preserve. Relative to the land prices for parcels in Hollister Ranch, however, the cattle ranching is probably uneconomic, and may continue largely for the sake of tax breaks and aesthetic considerations.

Recreational use

The Hollister family, previous owners of the property, allowed some recreational use of the area. In the late 1950s, they granted a pass to the regional Sportsman Hunting Club, which later split into several smaller clubs, including the Santa Barbara Surf Club. During over a decade of regular use, the Santa Barbara Surf Club discovered and named many surfing spots off the coast of 8 miles of beach, such as Razor Blades, Drake's, Little Drake's, Utah, Rights and Lefts, St. Augustine, Lefts and Rights, Cojo Reef, Cojo Point, Perko's and others.

Today, recreational use of the beach and surrounding area is studiously restricted to the shareowners of the current gated community, and is sometime met with open hostility from owners and staff. As California law allows public access to all land below the mean high tide line, many surfers today boat into the ranch from Gaviota, and anchor offshore.

Development and environmental concerns

Many associated with the present Hollister Ranch see themselves as responsible "stewards" of the land, ardently claiming to have worked out a successful formula balancing ecological preservation with residential development which functions within both a working commercial agricultural operation and a healthy natural habitat with a wide range of flora and fauna. On the other hand, the owners' formula also precludes public access through and over their property to beaches.

In 2004, the National Park Service abandoned a proposal to designate parts of the Gaviota coastline, including the seashore in front of Hollister Ranch, as National Seashore. Local landowners, especially those in Hollister Ranch, mounted a lobbying campaign to oppose the study. The Hollister Ranch Owners' Association assessed its members at least $300000 to hire a former congressman to lobby against the National Seashore proposal.

Previous projects proposed since the 1970s have included oil development, a nuclear power plant and high-density housing.

For over twenty years Santa Barbara area grade school children have been encouraged to participate (at no cost to the schools) in the Hollister Ranch Conservancy's “Tidepool Classroom” that preserves intertidal life forms not found elsewhere along the coast.

Hollister Ranch owners are currently restricted in terms of development in a situation that many say will result in efficient preservation of one of the last vestiges of the natural California coastline. In the view of Hollister Ranch property owners, they (private owners) are judged better stewards than regional public, state or national preservation projects. The owners are determined to protect this precious natural environment from the "negative population impacts" found at virtually all other beach areas in the southern part of the state, where public access is guaranteed to all socioeconomic classes, and not just private landowners and their staff[

Popular culture

Hollister Co., a clothing brand created by Abercrombie & Fitch, purports to be the outcome of a surf shop founded by John J. Hollister on Hollister Ranch in 1922.


This page was last updated July 19, 2009.