Locally-based land trust announces Imperial County purchase; injunction lifted on Prescott Preserve work

While the underlying lawsuit continues, a temporary injunction on work to convert a former golf course into a nature preserve has been lifted. Don’t expect much work to happen until funding, city review is complete.
A local organization has plans to convert a former golf course off East Mesquite Avenue, seen here, into a nature preserve.

As a local land preservation group announced its latest acquisition Wednesday, we’ve learned its plans for a major Palm Springs project have temporarily cleared at least one legal hurdle. Still, don’t expect much work at the site until funding is secured and the city reviews the plans.

Driving the news: Oswit Land Trust (OLT), formed in 2016 to purchase and preserve a South Palm Springs Canyon, announced it had partnered with Trust for Public Land (TPL) to acquire 1,888 acres of productive farmland in Imperial County through its first-ever agricultural conservation easement.

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  • The easement on farmland known as Alphabet Farms Ranch A is part of a larger effort by TPL and OLT to place agricultural conservation easements on roughly 7,600 acres of farmland in the Imperial Valley.

Why it matters: The property is in Audubon’s Imperial Valley Globally Important Bird Area (IBA) — the largest IBA in California — and the nearby Salton Sea is one of the most important nesting sites and stopovers along the Pacific Flyway.

  • OLT will carry out the long-term management of the land, assuring it won’t be developed at any time in the future.

What they’re saying: “We have been concerned by the loss of agricultural land in Southern California for conversion to warehouses and other development. We have seen land disappearing at an alarming rate. We are thrilled to be partnering with Trust for Public Land on this project and future projects that will protect land, farmers and jobs.” — Jane Garrison, OLT president

But wait: A temporary injunction on work by OLT to convert the former Mesquite Golf and Country Club in Palm Springs into a nature preserve was lifted in February after the plaintiffs in a lawsuit involving Garrison’s organization couldn’t come up with a required $5 million bond.

At issue: The lawsuit filed last August is still active. In it, attorneys for the Mesquite Country Club Condominium Homeowners Association (HOA) claim a lease agreement with the previous owner of the golf course — which forbids making significant changes to the golf course without first negotiating with the HOA — must now be honored by OLT. 

Bottom line: On Monday, Garrison said that even though the injunction was lifted, there won’t be much work on the land now named Prescott Preserve.

  • “We are still moving ahead with exactly what we had scheduled to be doing this year which is mostly planning,” she said. “We are submitting our full restoration grant in less than 30 days.”

  • If secured, the grant money would be used to restore the 120-acre former golf course and build trails and other amenities.

Yes, but: Even if that funding is secured, OLT’s plans will still require city review. In a letter dated March 13, Planning Services Director Christopher Hadwin told Garrison that while the city is supportive of plans to preserve the open space, he believes agreements put in place in the 1980s that deal with landscaping on the property will need to be modified for work to move forward.

  • Hadwin urged Garrison to seek approval for the modifications through the Planning Commission, writing, “…until such time as the land use entitlement process is complete, the city would ask that you not undertake any further modifications to the property, including its landscaping … .”


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