SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Actor Kirk Douglas and his family have had a longtime relationship with the Santa Barbara area community and he is being remembered after his passing Wednesday at age 103.
The family announcement came from Michael Douglas who also is an acclaimed actor and went to UC Santa Barbara. Kirk Douglas has lived part time in Montecito as well as Los Angeles County.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has an award in honor of Kirk Douglas. It has been presented for 14 years. Past winners include Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Douglas and this past November it was presented to Martin Scorsese.
Kirk Douglas appeared occasionally including a book signing in 2002 at Chaucer's bookstore. At times he would pop in to Lucky's restaurant in Santa Barbara about five minutes from his home in a gated community.
A bluff top property in Santa Barbara called the Douglas Family Preserve is a remembrance of the family. In 1972 the Wilcox nursery at the site closed. Developers offered plans for homes, a retirement community and a hotel. After community rejection, a fundraising drive began to buy and preserve the land. The price in 1996 was $3.6 million.
Donations came in from throughout the area to meet a deadline, at the 11th hour Michael Douglas came through with the final $600,000. The 70-acre site is now called the Douglas Family Preserve and, in coordination with the Trust for Public Land, it has been turned over to the Santa Barbara Park Department. A special plaque lists key donors in a prime spot overlooking the bluff top property.
One resident Steve Dunn hosted a small toast for Douglas every year, in recent years, on his December birthday.
"I just said to a couple of people you know we ought to toast him," said Dunn.
Sitting near some flowers for Douglas at the site he said, "I thought there would be some bigger acknowledgement because of what they did for this land. I don't think many people are aware of it. I appreciate what they did."
Views this morning were typical ranging from UC Santa Barbara on the western side to Ventura County to the east. Straight out you could see the Channel Islands clearly.
Residents were walking dogs, running, taking photos and enjoying fitness walks at 7 a.m.
"I think it is just a wonderful thing, kind of like the best kept secret in the country. Where's the best dog park? This might be the best dog park in the whole country," said Dunn.