Occidental’s Ocean Song, 421 beloved acres of wild, coastal hilltop land, already has a long history of ecological stewardship. And it’s about to write its next verse.
In October 2019, LandPaths, a conservation- and community-focused, Sonoma County-based nonprofit, acquired Ocean Song from Andrew Beath of Malibu, with 240 acres protected by a “forever wild” conservation easement.
One last land purchase finalizing this summer will create an uninterrupted path from the ocean to Coleman Valley Ridge. What this means is that people will be able to hike an eight-mile trail from Shell Beach through Sonoma Coast State Park up to Willow Creek State Park, then through the last land purchase and into Ocean Song, where breathtaking and inspiring views of the Farallon Islands, Point Reyes, Tomales, Mount Tam and Mount Diablo await them.
Established in 1996, LandPaths historically assists public access to preserved lands and nature education, particularly for youth—values also held by Ocean Song, through its various incarnations. LandPaths plans to amplify the location’s iconic legacy of wilderness, agriculture and environmental education.
A ridgetop jewel, Ocean Song’s grasslands, creeks, oaks, redwoods and acres of garden and farmland inspire connectivity with nature.
“You can’t spend time at that place and leave as the same person,” says LandPaths’ Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Something happens when you’re there. The most important aspects of LandPaths’ ownership and stewardship of Ocean Song are: protecting that landscape; not diminishing its capacity as a natural-functioning wildland; and allowing that place to change the people that go there but not have us change that place.”
The property—a former cattle ranch—was purchased in 1975 by Pieter and Marya Myers, friends of Bill Wheeler, the owner of the adjoining Wheeler’s Ranch commune which was home to hundreds during the 1970s hippie days. The Myerses created an organic farm and one of the first local community-supported agriculture programs.
Within a few years a small community called Centre of the Pumpkin and a partnership with the Ananda Spiritual Community developed, giving the place its name: Ocean Song. In 1995, they sold the western parcel to Eco-Corps, which turned out to be a rogue Hare Krishna group that they broke ties with in 2000 by selling to Earthways Foundation, run by Beath.
In 1999, the Ocean Song Farm and Wilderness Center officially became a nonprofit, eventually offering diverse environmental education programs, a farm and public access. This included Coyote Camp, the beloved nature camp founded in 2005 by naturalists/educators Annie Klein and Avo Anderson, along with Dan Spach and Irina Skoerie.
The inspiration was Discovery Day Camp, a former children’s camp active at Ocean Song in the ’80s and ’90s. In turn, Coyote Camp inspired LandPaths’ Owl Camp, which began a few years later; and Camp Bohemia, instigated in 2017 on the nearby 1,000 acres Bohemian Ecological Preserve—also preserved by LandPaths.
“When Coyote Camp ended at Ocean Song in 2017, LandPaths asked us to create another camp at the Bohemian Ecological Preserve called Camp Bohemia,” Klein says.
Stacy Lippincott, Klein’s assistant director at Coyote Camp, subsequently took over as director after the first year. Ocean Song’s programs, including Coyote Camp, closed in 2017 due to a lack of a use permit. LandPaths will apply for the permit, which will open the property to the public and will restart the legacy of Ocean Song’s cherished education programs.
As the current Ocean Song Farm and Wilderness Board of Directors said in a statement, “LandPaths is well-positioned to continue and expand upon [the tradition of environmental education] and provide the stewardship, program management, and the volunteers needed for the land to reach its full potential as a public resource and model of ecological health and diversity. We look forward to the unfolding of our shared future vision.” This vision includes connecting protected land.
“Conservation has been protecting postage-stamp pieces of land here and there, instead of connecting them all together,” Anderson says. “We have to connect these pieces.” Two local families made anonymous donations enabling the purchase from Beath and Earthways Foundation for just over $3.1 million, and LandPaths is currently fundraising to buy the last piece of the public trail: Pieter and Marya Myers’ adjoining property. The Myerses couldn’t be more supportive.
“LandPaths is about connecting people to natural, open-space areas for the experience, education and inspiration,” says Pieter Myers. “It was just a match. We don’t have to tell LandPaths what to do; they’ve got it figured out really well. Craig is completely committed to getting kids on the land—that’s the main event.”
Collaboration empowers the overarching vision to connect Shell Beach to Coleman Valley Ridge. District 5 Supervisor Lynda Hopkins says, “Our community will benefit from the efforts of LandPaths and private owners to protect and preserve this gem in perpetuity.”