The nonprofit San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy has purchased the site known as Gateway Park, across from Cardiff State Beach, for $3.75 million. The high-profile, 3.44-acre site, on the east side of Coast Highway 101 at the north end of Solana Beach, had long been targeted for potential commercial development.

A Dec. 29 statement from the conservancy said private individuals “who recognized the importance of conserving the site” joined together to loan the conservancy the purchase amount. The conservancy this month will launch a fundraising drive to repay the lenders.

The purchase essentially halts moves to build on the site, which will be used as an open space park and buffer for the nearby lagoon. “Equally important, this purchase will enhance San Elijo Lagoon by providing additional habitat and refuge for birds and other species,” said Denise Stillinger, president of the conservancy’s board of directors.

Scientists with the group are evaluating ways to promote the growth of native plants and animals. The site is currently overgrown with non-native invasive plants, according to Doug Gibson, the conservancy’s executive director and principal scientist.

— Lou Hirsh