The organization Save Cuesta Inlet recently attained non-profit status and has begun fundraising efforts to purchase the 13-acre property in Los Osos. Photo by Dean Sullivan.
When a treasured piece of property bordering the southeast end of the Morro Bay estuary was listed for sale this summer, a group of people organized with the goal of purchasing the land to preserve it for public use.
Now 300 members strong, Save Cuesta Inlet has attained non-profit status and officially kicked off fundraising efforts to purchase the 13-acre area site located at 1745 Doris Ave. in Los Osos. Boaters, walkers, bird watchers, photographers and painters with easels in hand frequent the popular property.
“Our goal is to take this property out of private ownership and put it into the public arena so that people can continue to enjoy access for perpetuity,” said Margarete Schmidt, Save Cuesta Inlet secretary-treasurer. “It’s just a special sort of magical place that only exists in our little corner of the bay, and we want to see preserved access.”
The immediate objective is to raise the $1 million purchase price, which organizers say is firm. While a parcel on the land is zoned for a single-family dwelling or recreational use, Save Cuesta Inlet wants to preserve the property.
The ultimate goal is to find a long-established nonprofit, land trust, or public agency to take over the property and keep it public space for perpetuity.
“We don’t want to be the long-term steward of that property,” Schmidt said. “We think that there are several entities that are better suited for that. For example, SLO County Parks and Los Osos Community Service District are both groups that manage public property.”
What about all the watercraft left near the shore in what has become an unofficial storage space? Since 2010, volunteers with the beautification group Celebrate Los Osos go out every year and check vessels for licenses and mark for removal if not in compliance. In 2021, a total of 570 vessels including kayaks, canoes, multi-hulls, mono-hulls, dinghies/skiffs and standup paddleboards left behind until the owners come back for a day on the water or were abandoned completely.
“Ultimately, it will not be our decision about what happens to the kayaks,” Schmidt said. “I think that it’s fair to say that the situation with the kayaks now is a bit out of hand. We have boats down there that haven’t been used since the last cleanup effort. I think it’s likely the situation will change resulting in fewer boats.”
The non-profit has also discussed raising the watercraft off the land to allow natural vegetation to grow supporting wildlife that feeds or nests in the area.
“This project is a work in progress,” Schmidt said, “and every day something new comes to light. I mean, literally.”
For folks looking to get invoved, the simplest way to help is to make a donation to the organization; one hundred percent of which will go towards the purchase price and related costs. Any monies remaining after the purchase will be placed in an endowment to help fund the long-term maintenance of Cuesta Inlet as a public space. Because of their non-profit status, donations are likely deductible, but readers should consult their tax advisor.
Other Ways to Help
Save Cuesta Inlet needs help spreading the word far and wide. They suggest community members host a neighborhood get-together and a steering committee member would attend and talk about their efforts and answer any questions. Similarly service clubs, church groups or other organizations could invite someone from the non-profit to speak at their meetings.
They also need volunteers to staff information tables at the farmers market, Oktoberfest, and other locations. Folks can do their own front yard marketing by purchasing signs in support of fundraising. They are available at $30 each.
Save Cuesta Inlet is planning a plein air art event and silent auction on November 5 – 6. They are inviting local artists to a paint-out at Cuesta Inlet on Saturday, November 5 followed by an exhibition and silent auction on November 6 at the community center.
A local benefactor is underwriting a Beerwood fundraiser where supporters can purchase a ticket that entitles them to two drinks and two selected food items at Beerwood redeemable by December 31. Tickets are $100.
The group is also putting together a Pets of Cuesta Inlet calendar featuring pictures of local pets at the property.
“W have had some great submissions of dogs in every possible situation, kayaking, covered in mud, or just being happy dogs at the inlet,” Schmidt said. “We will note pet birthdays or adoption days on the calendar for $10 each. The price of the calendar hasn’t been set yet, we are waiting for a price from the printer.”
Overall, Save Cuesta Inlet believes they money will be raised and the project will move forward.
“Los Osos has a lot of volunteer spirit and a lot of people willing to give it their time,” Schmidt said. “All we need is 2,000 people to donate $500, and then we can purchase the Inlet and secure public access to it for perpetuity. We have 6000 households, and, I know $500 is a lot of money, I’m not for a moment saying it’s not, but out of those 6000 households, if we could get 2000 to give an average of $500, we’d be done.”
That said, donations of any size are welcomed. Local people as well as from areas throughout the county and state and as far as Hawaii have already sent in donations for a total of $25,000 since the non-profit status was recently announced.
“All contributions are appreciated and valued,” Schmidt said. “This is for everybody. We want everyone to feel like they can participate. They can put their $5 in kitty, and they will have been part of purchasing this property.
Find information on current Save Cuesta Inlet news, fundraisers and events and become a volunteer by going to the website savecuestainlet.org or following the group’s Facebook and Instagram pages.