Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Goleta approves funding for docent program at Ellwood Mesa


When Monarch Butterflies flock by the tens-of-thousands to the eucalyptus groves on the Ellwood Mesa each winter, people do the same.
And according to the City of Goleta, which owns 230 acres of the mesa, many groups of people want a more intensive, guided tour of the terrain.

In order to do that, the City Council voted unanimously on Monday to allocate $30,000 to establish the Monarch Butterfly Docent Program. The Docent Program’s primary objective will be to train people who are interested in giving tours and educating the general public about Monarch Butterflies.
“The monarch butterfly represents one of Goleta’s finest treasures and city staff receives repeated requests for public educational opportunities from visitors and school groups,” said Anne Wells, Goleta’s advance planning manager in a council agenda letter.
The agenda letter says the trained docents will be present on the mesa between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each weekend between Dec. 8 and the middle of February.
The $30,000 that will be used for the training program will be taken from a $200,000 mitigation fund that was provided by Comstock Homes, which developed a number of homes on an adjoining 36-acre parcel of land that was once Santa Barbara Shores Park. The $200,000 was required, the agenda letter says, in order to offset impacts to resources, including impacts to the monarch butterfly.
The agenda letter says docent recruitment began on Nov. 6 when city staff met with the Coronado Butterfly Preserve and Santa Barbara Land Trust to identity the steps that would be required to set up and maintain such a program. A list of qualified docents was also created at that time. The agenda letter says this list is comprised primarily of people associated with the Museum of Natural History “Butterflies Alive” pavilion.
On Nov. 26, the agenda letter says potential docents attended an introductory field trip to the preserve.
The docent training will occur at Goleta City Hall, with the biology portion of the training being conducted by the Coronado Butterfly Preserve and the remaining training, such as public outreach, visitor rules and scheduling provided by Wells.
Wells said the docent program will be reviewed by the council next year and a decision will be made at that time to either renew funding for the program or deny it.

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