Monday, 11 July 2016

Clint and Maggie Eastwood donate 79 acres to Big Sur Land Trust

Gift will restore Carmel River Flood Plain. CARMEL, Calif. A land gift two decades in the making has come to fruition. On Tuesday, a ceremony was held to celebrate Clint and Maggie Eastwood's donation of 79 acres of their Odello East property to the Big Sur Land Trust. In 1997, the Eastwoods donated 49 acres of Odello East to the trust, but this second donation took a bit longer to organise.

"You think a gift would be easy. You'd think somebody would just snatch it up and say 'thank you,'" Eastwood said after the ceremony.

The gift will preserve the open space and restore the Carmel River Flood Plain. Big Sur Land Trust plans to remove the levee and add new flood channels. The project will benefit wildlife habitats in the lower Carmel River and Carmel River Lagoon.The trust will also put in a public trail going from Carmel River Beach all the way to Palo Corona Regional Park. Restoring the flood plain will also protect the Mission Fields neighbourhood and Rio Road area from flooding if the Central Coast ever sees a season with as much rainfall as it saw in 1995 and 1998.

"It took out the whole neighbourhood down there and across the intersection, millions of dollars in expenses," Eastwood said about past flooding.

As part of the deal, the California Department of Transportation has agreed to allow a section of Highway 1 to be replaced with a new causeway and bridge, allowing floodwaters to flow under Highway 1 and out to sea. Clint Eastwood and his former wife Maggie have a long history of protecting land from development on the Central Coast.

"That way, when I come back to it, it always looks the same," Eastwood said.

The Eastwoods sold hundreds of acres to the county in the Malpaso Creek deal, preserving the area as open space decades ago. The two then used funds from the sale to buy the Odello East property where there were plans to build a subdivision in the 1990s. Instead of moving forward with development plans, the Eastwoods have kept the land as is, while still making smart business decisions. Part of the reason it took almost 20 years to gift the second Odello parcel is because the water entitlements issue was being worked out at the state and local level. According to county supervisor Dave Potter, Malpaso Water Company was formed this year and Eastwood kept a portion of the water from Odello.

"I kept a certain amount for myself -- probably enough to cover the expenses," he said.

Potter said Malpaso Water Company will sell the water to people wanting to build on existing lots of record in the Carmel area. To do it, the State Water Resources Control Board had to give the okay, and Potter credits California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird with pushing it through.

"He will still be making money, which is important, but then the property can go to the public, and he is compensated accordingly," Potter said.

Potter has helped work on the gift, which has involved multiple agencies, including the Monterey
County, California State Parks, CalTrans and the Big Sur Land Trust. Potter said Malpaso Water Company will also help people to build in places in which they haven't been able to build for years.
"If you look in Carmel, there are lots that have been sitting empty for years, and now all of a sudden there is a sold sign on it that's because they have water for it now," he said.
Potter has been working on the deal since his first term in office. He is leaving his seat as District 5 supervisor after 20 years of service and Odello will be part of the legacy he leaves.

"I am very proud of it. It is great to have something you can actually look back on and say, 'I participated in this,'" Potter said.

As with other gifts the Eastwoods have made, they will receive a tax break. According to newspaper articles written in the 1990s, the two received a $6 million write-off for the 49-acre gift. It is unclear what the break will be for the 79 acres. But for Eastwood, the real motivation for giving the land seems to be keeping the Central Coast as is.

"If I came along and saw a development there, that would break my heart, you know," Eastwood said.

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