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"Saving" the Elfin Forest

The area around the Forest was subdivided into vacation home sites as early as 1889. There were few sales until the 1920s and very little development until the 1970s. By the early 1980s it became evident that one of the greatest assets of the area – its natural setting – was rapidly disappearing. Through community efforts in 1987, state legislation was passed that provided funding to purchase 51.2 acres along the northern edge of the Forest, bordering Los Osos Creek, as an addition to Morro Bay State Park.

In 1994, as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP), San Luis Obispo County, the State Coastal Conservancy, and the California Department of Transportation additional funds were raised and the remaining 38.9 acres were acquired as an ecological reserve. Of this, a 7.2 acre area at the extreme western end of the Forest, including Bush Lupine Point, belongs to the State Lands Commission. The remainder, about 32 acres facing the street ends from about 12th street to South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos, belongs to the County of San Luis Obispo.

SWAP has an "Adopt-A-Park" agreement with San Luis Obispo County Parks and is responsible for management, maintenance, and restoration of all portions of the reserve in conjunction with County Parks. All SWAP activities in the Natural Area require advance approval and review by the agency owning the area in which work is to be done. Precautions mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must also be met because of the presence of the Morro Shoulderband Snail, a federally listed endangered species. The Forest contains several archeologically important sites, and any construction or digging, such as that required for installation of the boardwalk, requires prior inspection by an archeologist.