Cardiff-by-the-Sea — The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (SELC) has sent out letters, set up booths at community events and even asked for $1 million in exchange for naming rights — all for the purpose of buying Gateway Park.
With $2.65 million of the required $3.75 million raised, SELC representatives say the campaign has paid off, but there’s still work to be done.
About 17 months ago, the conservancy purchased the 3.4-acre Gateway property for $3.75 million to protect the area from development, and to preserve the surrounding wildlife, habitat and corridor view for those traveling along Coast Highway 101.
Private donors plunked down the $3.75 million, and SELC, a nonprofit, has raised nearly $2.65 million so far to repay them. To mark its progress, the SELC recently put up a sign at Gateway Park that states, “We’re almost there!” But if the group fails to come up with the sum, the land will return to the open market.
“We wanted to let the community know we’ve made significant headway, but we still need help,” said Elaine Dodge, development director of SELC.
Dodge said the conservancy aims to raise the remaining $1.1 million by the end of the year to secure the property in perpetuity.
Over the past 30 years, several commercial developments were proposed on Gateway Park, which is located on the border of Solana Beach and Cardiff — this kick started a grassroots movement to acquire the property.
Once the property is obtained, Dodge said that SELC will take out invasive plants, remove debris, add a new community trail and work to improve the health of the park and nearby wetland.
“We’re in the fundraising phase right now,” Dodge said.
Of the $2.65 million pledged, individuals have contributed the bulk — nearly $2.4 million. Businesses have given about $60,000, and foundations donated $195,000.
Nearly 35 percent of the donors live in Solana Beach, with 23 percent in Encinitas, 17 percent in Cardiff, 11 percent in Del Mar and 14 percent from the rest of the county and even outside the state, according to Dodge.
Last year, SELC announced it was offering up the naming rights for the Gateway property to a resident, foundation or business for $1 million. So far, Dodge said that no one has taken the conservancy up on the proposition, but it’s still on the table.
Also, SELC offers a matching gift of up to $100,000 for individuals who contribute — courtesy of local philanthropist Frances Hamilton White.
Additionally, SELC mailed letters to its members after buying the property to encourage donations. Should SELC still need money for the campaign in five months, Dodge said that the conservancy would send out mailers to those who aren’t already part of SELC.
“This is an important piece of land that locals are very interested in preserving; we think they should know about this opportunity,” Dodge said.