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103 Acres Added to Bolsa Chica Reserve

Times Staff Writer

The last major acquisition for the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach was made Wednesday when the state bought 103 acres that activists had sought for more than a decade to preserve.

California Coastal Communities Inc., a Southern California homebuilder, sold the parcel near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway to the state Wildlife Conservation Board for $65 million.

The mesa will be added to the 1,100-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which is undergoing a $70-million restoration, the largest such undertaking in California.

“This is a tremendous win for the people of California,” said Flossie Horgan, who co-founded the Bolsa Chica Land Trust 13 years ago to stop the coastal mesa from being developed.

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Completing the sale means that at least 96% of the developer’s original holdings have been set aside for preservation as open space. In 1980, there were proposals to build marinas, commercial buildings and at least 5,700 homes on the site.

California Coastal Communities still plans to build 349 luxury homes and a park on the upper portion of the mesa. The California Coastal Commission approved the 105-acre Brightwater development in April. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

The land bought by the state includes hiking trails and environmentally sensitive habitat for eucalyptus trees, the southern tar plant and birds of prey, such as hawks, owls and osprey.

Environmentalists and state officials said the mesa, which is adjacent to the ecological preserve, also would provide a much-needed buffer between future development and the wetlands.

“We have always looked on the wetlands and the uplands as one integrated resource,” said Shirley Dettloff, a founder of Amigos de Bolsa Chica. “The major acreage that forms Bolsa Chica has now been saved.”

Al Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board, said the state would prepare a plan for the property and determine what steps were necessary to restore the parcel and improve public access.

The state will pay for the land using funds from Proposition 50, a 2002 initiative that provides $3.4 billion for environmental projects.

Preservationists say they are still trying to acquire two parcels totaling 56 acres in the wetlands from private owners, including Shea Properties, an Orange County developer.

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