GOLETA, Calif. - The former Ocean Meadows Golf Course has been shut down for months, and now the natural habitat in the area is making a comeback.
The course shut down at the end of March but some golfers still manage to play a few holes. The plan is to restore the area as part of the Devereux Slough. So far, even without any excavation, nature is making progress.
"Even all these years of impacts, there's still remnants. So it's really inspiring to see that the seed bank is somewhat still here, and once we excavate, the system is ready and prime to go back to it's native form. It's very exciting," said Lisa Stratton, the director of ecosystem management at UC Santa Barbara.
Stratton, who has her Ph. D. in botany and conservation biology, says she is excited to see the regrowth of the former golf course.
In just around five months, the natural habitat is starting to peak though. It might not look like much until you take a close look.
The golf course grass is dying out, but the native salt marsh plans are replacing the fairways and greens.
The plan is to get the land back to what it used to be.
"If we had been here in the 1930s, we would have probably been knee-deep in water," said Stratton.
The project includes taking out the dirt that filled in the slough and add public access.
Now that the course is closed, some people are already taking advantage of that, including Ramona Winner and her dog Amani, who enjoyed a stroll on Monday morning.
"We used to walk on the bluffs in that area and we'd always have out eye out here because there's a lot of squirrels and he loves to chase the squirrels but we couldn't let him come out. It's a treat being able to come out here now," said Winner.
Jerry Tietz rode his bicycle on the golf cart paths. He thinks instead of people making the changes, nature should take over the course.
"Why don't you just leave it like it is and make it an experiment from the university on how a golf course reverts to nature and watch out for all the changes. What happens to the sand hazards, what happens to the greens," said Tietz.
Before any work is done, there's at least another year and a half of planning, permits and public comment. But the end goal will be to open up the wetlands once again.
One more community workshop for the public to share their ideas about the project will take place in front of the former golf course club house at 6925 Whittier Drive in Goleta on Sept. 25.Slideshow: Goleta Golf Course Natural Habitat Making Comeback