Roughly 6,300 acres of San Mateo County’s coastal land known as Cloverdale Ranch has been added to the portfolio of properties protected and restored by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
The purchase, made possible by a vote by Midpen’s Board of Directors last Saturday, marks the largest single ever completed by Midpen and was made possible through a partnership between the environmentally focused nonprofit and the Peninsula Open Space Trust, another nonprofit with similar environmental objectives.
“Purchasing a large portion of Cloverdale Ranch from our partners at POST is incredibly significant for Midpen and a fitting capstone to our yearlong 50th anniversary celebrations,” Midpen General Manager Ana María Ruiz said in a press release announcing the purchase. This vast ecological and agricultural jewel on the coastside is poised to become Midpen’s 27th public open space to preserve and to be protected and managed in perpetuity for environmental restoration, viable agriculture and ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.”
In the announcement, Midpen highlighted the vital role of Cloverdale Ranch as a rare biodiverse swath of 10 miles along California’s coast. The property, located in Pescadero, connects about 31,000 acres of surrounding open space and parkland, which Midpen said provides critical wildlife corridors to various land and water species.
POST, which typically purchases open space for preservation and transfers it to organizations skilled at stewardship, had acquired more than 8,200 acres of coastal land starting in 1997 through multiple land purchases to protect Cloverdale Ranch as concerns around the protection of agricultural land and open space grew .
Since then, POST has transferred portions of the property to different entities, including 900 acres to the state as an addition to Butano Park, another 39 acres to the state as part of Pigeon Point Lighthouse and 550 acres are currently being leased to private farmers who have been tasked with maintaining the Polsa Point Farm property.
In total, POST has helped preserve about 80,000 acres of open space across San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Meanwhile, Midpen currently manages 26 public open space preserves spanning more than 65,000 acres and containing more than 250 miles of trail throughout the greater Santa Cruz Mountains region.
“Back in 1997, the threat of subdivision and commercial development of this stunning, environmentally rich swath of the San Mateo coastside was very real,” POST President Walter Moore said in the release. “Fast-forward to 2022, and the people of San Mateo County can rely on the long-term environmental and economic benefits of resilient ecosystems and working lands.”
More than $60 million in private and public funds have gone into purchasing, restoring and maintaining the property over the last two decades. The portion of property Midpen is purchasing is currently valued at about $32 million but POST has offered to sell the property at half its value.
Nearly $10 million in grant funding has supported the $16 million purchase with the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors providing $500,000 of Measure K funds to the agency and another $8 million coming from the state.
The initial transfer in 2023 will add 5,100 acres of land to Midpen’s stewardship. The agency will have the option to secure the other 1,200 acres in 2025.
The existing Cloverdale Ranch farmland, consisting of 250 acres of cropland and 140 acres of dry-farmed land, will remain in POST ownership after the property transfer is complete next year. Another roughly 4,500 acres of grasslands will continue to be used for grazing as part of the organization’s conservation efforts.
Midpen plans to continue to allow public access to the 1.1-mile Wilbur’s Watch Trail at the southwestern portion of the property — included in the first chunk of land being transferred to Midpen — and will offer guided public access opportunities. Additional recreational trails through the property could be open to the public following a multiyear planning process that will include extensive study and public input, the agency said.
“POST has invested in Cloverdale for over a quarter century — in land protection, restoration and stewardship,” Moore said. “Our goal is that with the transfer to Midpen, the public will receive the multiple natural resources and recreational benefits of this extraordinary landscape for many years to come.”