East Sweet Springs Restoration and Access Improvements

East Sweet Springs - Path to Blind Platform
Project Background:

The Trust for Public Land negotiated the purchase of 8 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the Sweet Springs Preserve in Los Osos in July 2008. The property was purchased for $2 million dollars. The purchase was funded by the State Coastal Conservancy, California Wildlife Conservation Board and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. At the close of escrow, the title for the property was transferred to Morro Coast Audubon Society (MCAS) along with a number of binding deed restrictions. The deed stipulates that the property may only be used “... for the purpose of natural resource protection, preservation, restoration and management of wildlife habitat and sensitive biological resources, wildlife oriented education and research, open space protection and compatible public access.”

Morro Coast Audubon conducted a number of surveys of cultural and biological resources on the property to inform decisions concerning the future management of the property. The surveys identified a wealth of cultural and biological resources. An archeological survey indicated the site has a long history of usage by the Native American Chumash tribes. Suitable habitat conditions for 17 special status plant species exist onsite, three of which have been directly observed: Blochman’s leafy daisy (Erigeron blochmaniae), Sand almond (Prunus fasciculata var. punctata), and California sea blite (Suaeda californica). There are also suitable habitat conditions for 13 special status wildlife species onsite. A number of these species have been directly observed including the federally endangered Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana), Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), silvery legless lizard (Anniella pulchra) and Morro blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides ‘moroensis’).

Celebration at Opening in November 2017

With this information in hand, MCAS developed a plan for the property to provide access to the public while protecting the sensitive resources found at the site. The plan was submitted to the County of San Luis Obispo for permit review in 2011. In addition to the Recovery Action Plan developed to protect the Morro shoulderband snail, the County requested a Habitat Conservation Plan for the snail to insure protection. MCAS then worked with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to approve the plan, which would allow MCAS to apply for an Incidental Take Permit for the snail. MCAS received the Incidental Take Permit in 2016. Meanwhile, a few changes in the original plan were made including eliminating the request to remove up to 120 eucalyptus trees over a 10 year period on the property, moving the ADA entrance to the corner of 4th Street and Ramona Avenue, and adding a partial wall / blind to the planned overlook platform to limit disturbances to birds and other wildlife.

With the access construction plans in hand, MCAS sought bids from three local construction contractors and selected Dos Osos Timberworks from Los Osos for the Project. MCAS also entered into an agreement with Cannon Corporation in San Luis Obispo to oversee the construction process. Construction began in July 2017 and was completed in October 2017. East, Central, and West Sweet Springs are now being managed as one Preserve known as “Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.”

Public Access Plans:
  • Pedestrian and ADA compliant entrance at the corner of 4th Street and Ramona Avenue 
  • ADA parking space at the corner of 4th and Ramona 
  • Bike rack (funding provided by San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club) 
  • ADA compliant granite trail and raised boardwalk leading to the overlook platform/ blind 
  • ADA compliant viewing platform / blind with built-in benches and binocular rests 
  • Four interpretive panels (1. waterfowl / Pacific Flyway; 2. breeding birds; 3. Chumash heritage; and 4. Morro shoulderband snail / native plants) 
  • Community kiosk 
  • Storage shed 
  • Guide ropes and raised text for sight impaired visitors 
  • Five resting benches 
  • Two non-ADA compliant trails connecting East with Central Sweet Springs 
  • Replacement of chain link perimeter fence with wooden fence similar to Central Sweet Springs 
Restoration Plans: 
  • Gradual removal of non-native plants including: veldt grass, ice plant, mustard, wild radish, fennel, African daisy, English Ivy, and more 
  • Replant with plants found in coastal dune scrub habitat that are favored by wildlife and the Morro shoulderband snail 
  • Ongoing maintenance to remove non-natives and reestablish native plants, shrubs, and trees 
Related Documents:–
  1. Twenty-five Letters of Support for the Project (2011-2012)
  2. Notes From Meeting with Save The Park (PDF) (5/23/2012)
  3. "About Sweet Springs" Article from The Sierra Club newsletter (PDF) (no date)
  4. East Sweet Springs Monarch Report (PDF) (3/6/2012)
  5. Updated Project Description (PDF) (August 2011, rev. March 2012)
  6. Updated Minor Use Permit (PDF) (no date)
  7. East Sweet Springs History (PDF) (1/27/2012)
  8. Central Sweet Springs Tree Count (PDF) (1/27/2012)
  9. Informational Handout (PDF) (no date)
  10. Sweet Springs Expansion Project Summary and Proposed Trail Map (PDF) (no date)