Morro Bay Open Space Alliance going strong

View of Cerrito Peak from the harbor. (Contributed photo)

MORRO BAY Saving Cerrito Peak is one of the major goals of the Morro Bay Open Space Alliance. This somewhat obscure little hill located in the heart of Morro Bay is reverently referred to as Eagle Rock to locals as it was to the members of the Salinan and Chumash.

So, what is Eagle Rock? Is it related to the big guy in the harbor? Well, the answer is probably, yes. This is yet another of the small volcanic plugs that grace the landscape of the Central Coast. The technical name for this rock dome is Cerrito Peak and it is the only high ground between Black Hill and Morro Rock, which is part of the volcanic plugs known as the Seven Sisters that stretch in a straight line from the eastern part of San Luis Obispo all the way to the ocean. These rock outcroppings are part of the same 24 million-year-old volcanic formations that developed at the boundary of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates.

It’s known that ancestors of the Salinan and Chumash tribes visited Cerrito Peak because ceremonial mortars carved out of the rock are found there. This type of rocky substance would not ordinarily lend itself to any kind of material production, so it is thought that it was used for spiritual or playful purposes. The people of the Salinan tribe consider Eagle Rock a sacred place.

It’s easy to take Cerrito Peak for granted. Who gets excited over another eucalyptus grove? However, the peak, located in South Morro Bay, and bounded by Main, Olive, Acacia, and Cerrito Place, is a vital part of the visual landscape of the town, affording views of North Morro Bay to the Rock and to the South Bay. Its location is what makes Main Street curve toward the east near Acacia, on the way to the State Park. People have visited the peak for play, relaxation, meditation and to enjoy that panoramic view from the top.

Cerrito Peak is covered with blue gum eucalyptus trees and wintering Monarch butterflies have been using the trees for generations. Often you will see turkey vultures circling overhead and owls hoot from the trees at dawn and dusk. The trees are perches for peregrine falcons, hawks, and eagles and act as a resting place for migrating birds.

The peak is somewhat obscured by houses at its lower end and it was the threat of more houses being built up the sides of it, that prompted local citizens to band together to save the peak. There was a plan to build a multi-story single-family home at the top of the peak around 2011. The Morro Bay Open Space Alliance formed and is in process of raising money to buy the topmost parcel of the peak and place it in a permanent conservancy that would include public easements and paper roads adjacent to the parcel. This preserved land would equal more than 2 acres of wooded hillside that is meant to be kept undeveloped and mostly unimproved for passive recreation and pleasure.

If you are interested to know more about the Cerrito Peak Campaign or to donate to this project, visit www.mbopenspace.org and join.

Cerrito Peak isn’t the only area the MBOSA has in its sights. They are also keeping on top of the preservation of Chevron’s Toro Hills property near North Morro Bay.

On Dec. 6 the California Coastal Conservancy Board approved a $1 million grant toward the acquisition of the first parcel of this extensive property. The current work is dedicated toward the purchase of highly visible parcels that lie on both sides of Highway 1 between Morro Bay and Cayucos. It is estimated that it will take $5 million total to buy the first important parcels and Trust for Public Lands (TPL) is actively working on this. So far, the plan achieves several important objectives TPL is using to guide its efforts: Parcel 1, an important buffer between Morro Bay and Cayucos would be preserved as open space; beachside property could be conserved; the Coastal Trail would be connected between communities; and the dog beach would get protected permanent status. There is a lot of work to this project for TPL and MBOSA has been warned that big conservation deals take years, sometimes decades. For more information, go to www.mbopenspace.org.

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