The Stunt Ranch Reserve is named for the original family that homesteaded the property in 1885. It is situated in the Cold Creek watershed on the north-central flank of the Santa Monica Mountains. The reserve is recognized as a rich archeological site with evidence of Chumash inhabitants dating back thousands of years. The 1993 Malibu/Topanga Fire burned more than 17,000 acres of land in the Santa Monica Mountains area and destroyed more than 300 structures. Although fire is a natural process and major factor in the ecology of the Santa Monica Mountains, this fire was actually started by an arsonist. At Stunt Ranch, most of the vegetation was burned and all facilities were completely destroyed.
A permanent structure was recently built and opened in 2013 for teaching and research purposes, serving the needs of faculty and students from UCLA, UC sister campuses, local and international universities, and K-12 schools from all parts of the greater Los Angeles area.
The Reserve is adjacent to extensive natural areas protected by California State Parks, the National Park Service, and conservation management agencies like the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the TreePeople Land Trust. Cooperative research projects and education programs are ongoing with these agencies and further opportunities exist. These collaborations focus on broad issues of resource management and conservation, as well as local research to understand historical, current, and future ecological, environmental, and biological aspects and patterns of the surrounding area.
From its start in 1995, the Reserve has hosted on average 4,000 unique users with over 5,000 user days annually, during which 39 undergraduate and graduate courses from UCLA and other universities have utilized the reserve, conducted 58 research projects, and generated greater than 137 peer-reviewed publications. However, the largest part of the Reserve’s use traditionally came from outreach programs for K-12 student, especially younger students centered on the fifth grade. This work was managed by the Cold Creek Docents and their award-winning program that introduced youth to the natural ecology and history of the Santa Monica Mountains. In 2019, the Cold Creek Docents program was brought under the leadership of TreePeople; simultaneously, the pandemic put a halt to Stunt’s outreach programs.
We are working with TreePeople to explore new opportunities as the pandemic lifts and we can revamp and revitalize these important programs.