Members and staff of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County came together at Watsonville Slough Farm on Aug. 5 to commemorate the work they've accomplished.
The annual event, dubbed this year the Bee Barn Bash, offered supporters a chance to meet up, discuss issues with Land Trust staff and volunteers, and celebrate what the organization has gotten done in the past year.
"This is basically our annual thank you party for our members," Events Manager Maddie Nehf said. "It's our way of showing appreciation for what they've been able to help us do."
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is a nonprofit organization which strives to protect, care for and give public access to county lands. Since its establishment in 1978, it has raised more than $60 million for conservation and has protected thousands of acres, both directly and through a variety of partnerships.
And this year in particular has been a notable one. After years of effort, the Land Trust has acquired its final easement to protect a large acreage of land west of Highway 17. The project will culminate in the construction of a wildlife access tunnel under one particularly dangerous area of the highway near Laurel Curve.
"We couldn't have done this without the people in this very room," said Executive Director Stephen Slade at the Bee Barn Bash on Aug. 5. "We are so grateful, and we know we can count on you as we take the next step."
The conservation of land in the Pajaro Valley is another one of the Land Trust's main projects. Around 500 acres of farmland and wetlands has been protected since 2000, including Watsonville Slough Farm, where 600 condominiums and a golf course development had almost been constructed.
The farm is now owned by the Land Trust and used in a variety of ways. Half is leased agriculture land, where vegetables and strawberries are grown by Lakeside Organic Gardens and Reiter Affiliated Companies. Restoration projects, water management research and educational programs all take place on the property.
"Saving land in the Pajaro Valley is vital," Slade said. "Not only for the agriculture industry, but for the future of its people and wildlife."
Last month, Land Trust members volunteered their time to paint the Bee Barn, which is one of two barns on the Watsonville Slough property. Nehf expressed her gratitude of the participants.
"The fact they were willing to come out here and help — it really shows how dedicated these people are," she said.
Attendees of the party were treated to complimentary wine, beer, Martinelli's apple cider, live music and lasso lessons. The Agricultural History Project was on hand as well, offering hay rides through the farm's trails. And toward the end of the event, prizes from outdoor recreation company REI were raffled off to members.
"We have a lot more to do," Slade said. "But it's nice to reflect on our achievements, too."
For information on the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, how to become a member and volunteer opportunities, visit landtrustsantacruz.org or call (831) 429-6116.