MONTECITO, Calif. - Channel Islands Restoration released a statement following the original airing of this story. You can read their full statement here:
A local resident is voicing concerns about the recent spraying of weed killer and a proposed restoration plan at Hammond's Meadow.
Shalawa Meadow, most commonly referred to as Hammond's Meadow, is a 3-acre bluff next to the beach in Montecito. In ancient times, the meadow was used as a burial site by the Chumash people.
The site is a special place for longtime resident Timothy Kirshtner and his son Riley.
Kirshtner said he's speaking out on behalf of some local residents who say the spraying of weed killer on the property after recent rains is detrimental.
"There is going to be a restoration project and I'm all for restoration. It's winter time and it's going to be raining really hard and they are spraying weed killer. It happens to be an organic week killer mixed with blue dye. But it exposes the land and it's not going to be protected because they don't have a plan to cover the land with anything just yet and they haven't collected enough seed or plant material to put in the land," Kirshtner said.
Kirshtner said signs warning about the spraying weren't posted in plain sight and residents complained about the smell.
Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) is in charge of the restoration project. Executive Director Ken Owen said the non-profit was asked by residents of the Sea Meadow community to restore the site with native ecology. The open space is owned by Santa Barbara County Parks, and CIR has an agreement with the county to do work on the property. Owen also said a committee of local residents is also overseeing the project.
Owen said the weed killer is necessary to mitigate the fire danger and CIR has received numerous requests from the fire department to remove the weeds. He said residents were notified about the spraying.
"We put up signs three days before if weed killer is going to be used and two days after," Owen said. "I personally put caution tape around this entire 3-acre site to indicate people shouldn't walk around the site. This is not a synthetic herbicide. This is a weed killer made from orange peels, a weed killer used in organic farming."
Owen said the weed killer will be used every time it rains to appease the fire department's request and ready the land for planting.
"What you have at the site is one native plant. The rest of the plants that come up at the site are European weeds that are growing there. That is bad for the ecology of the place. It doesn't support nearly the number of bird species and other animals that restored sites do," Owen said.
Kirshtner said the weed killer won't work.
"If they put it on it's going to wash away again and again and it will continue to sprout up. There's a seed bank underneath the soil. When the gophers dig, they dig up some seed that lives underneath the surface of the soil exposing a new seed bank," Kirshtner said. "If the weeds are killed, the gophers, moles and voles won't have any habitat which support the bird life too."
Once the weeds are tamed, Owen said native planting will begin through a direct seeding method.
Kirshtner wants to take a different approach utilizing the gopher holes without having to dig.
"My perfect scenario would be to grow hundreds of pounds of seed with a seed farm for a number of years off site, and hydro-seed the land and use two inch plant plugs of native grass and coastal sage scrub plants to plug the gopher holes. The gophers won't be able to eat all of the plants," Kirshtner said.
CIR will spray weed killer intensively for the first year. The restoration project could start in two years depending on permit approval by the county.
Owen said he understands why some people are concerned about changes at the meadow, but the work needs to be done to make it less of an eyesore.
"The ultimate project is going to be an improvement of species and birds and will aesthetically be a lot more pleasing to look at than the site looks now," Owen said.
Kirshtner said other efforts by CIR to shore up the bluff using netting and sandbags didn't work either.
"Their bags broke down in the sun with pieces of plastic all over the beach and the bluff. They abandoned that," Kirshtner said.
Kirshtner wants more public hearings so people can voice their concerns about the project.
"I think this is going to need a more patient plan and it will take several years before they can move ahead with restoration," Kirshtner said. "You don't want to disturb this land, this land is supposed to be at peace."