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Monday, September 8, 2008

A Review of District Land Purchases & Gifts in Fiscal Year 2007-2008 in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
Annual Report 2007-2008 (published September 2008)

As an open space agency, the District’s primary purpose is to preserve open space. This is further reflected in the District’s mission “to acquire and preserve a regional greenbelt of open space land in perpetuity.” The District uses its available resources to purchase
land of a significant open space value and that might be lost to development if the District fails to act. The District also actively strives to purchase open space through gifts and matching grants.

The District owns 57,000 acres of preserved open space, and that land is contiguous to approximately 230,000 contiguous acres preserved and owned and managed by others

The following is a summary of the land purchases and gifts of land received this past fiscal year.

• The District accepted a gift in October 2007 of the 0.73-acre Delahay property as an addition to La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve.

• In November 2007, the District purchased the 71.34-acre Behroozi Trust property. The
property is adjacent to Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve’s Kennedy Trail along its western boundary, making it a natural extension to the Preserve. This property purchase is important for the protection of the scenic ridgeline, views from the Kennedy Trail, and valuable wildlife habitat. Oak woodland, grassland, and chaparral ridges are characteristic of the property’s upper ridges and the north-facing slopes are wooded with
oak, bay, and madrone. (The Delahay property and the Behroozi Trust property are the two properties purchased that closed escrow in fiscal year 2007-2008.)

• Also in November 2007, the District approved the purchase of the 80-acre Merrill Trust property as an addition to the Cathedral Oaks Area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. Several ravines and a major tributary to Hooker Gulch bisect the property’s steep slopes.
The rugged hillsides are densely covered with many chaparral species, which give way to coast live oak and bay trees. Preservation of this land will aid in protecting the Los Gatos Creek watershed, the scenic backdrop visible from surrounding open space lands, and valuable wildlife habitat.

• For many years, the District has worked cooperatively with the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department to purchase property connecting between County and District lands in the Lexington Reservoir and Soda Springs Creek watershed. The first property purchased in the New Year, the 56.88-acre Beatty Trust property, is surrounded by Lexington Reservoir County Park and provides a natural extension of the Kennedy-Limekiln Area of the District’s Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The property is vegetated with oak woodland and grassland, and chaparral on the upper elevations. The property directly overlooks Lexington Reservoir and enjoys excellent views of the entire Lexington/Los Gatos Creek basin and the surrounding open space and park lands.

• Also in January 2008, the 1-acre Della Maggiore property was approved as an addition to the Cathedral Oaks Area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. This property forms the backdrop to the Lexington Reservoir Basin and is superbly scenic, with views that extend
toward Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve and as far as Santa Cruz. A nearby perennial creek and diverse landscape provide excellent habitat connections for a variety of wildlife, including the mountain lion. Potential future public recreational trail opportunities may be possible.

Mindego Ranch
• The most significant land purchase initiated this past fiscal year is the 1,047-acre Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) Mindego Ranch property, as part of the District’s Coastside Protection Program to preserve open space and agricultural land on the San Mateo County coast. Located near Alpine Road and Skyline Boulevard and the town of La Honda, Mindego Ranch will be incorporated into the District’s adjacent 1,978-acre Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, increasing the size of the Preserve by more than one-third. In March 2008, the District purchased the property from POST for $22.5 million, a $6 million gift from the $28.5 million POST paid for Mindego Ranch in
fall 2007. The California Coastal Conservancy provided the District with a $7.5 million grant toward the purchase, and the District has also secured a $564,000 grant from the Per Capita Grant Program under the Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2002.

Restoring Natural Resources

As part of the purchase due diligence process for the property, environmental site assessments wereinitiated and solid waste and landfill debris was confirmed on the property. This provides an opportunity for the District to restore the property to its natural
condition and to showcase its efforts through public outreach and education.

Protecting Threatened Species

A substantial portion of the upper headwaters of Mindego and Alpine Creeks, both tributaries of San Gregorio Creek, originate on the property. Numerous springs with year-round water provide aquatic habitat for critical species, including steelhead trout, a species listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The varied
habitat also provides a rich resource for mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, the San Francisco dusky-footed woodrat, and a wide variety of raptors, including golden eagles. Along with the rare and endangered San Francisco garter snake and the threatened California red-legged frog, this property affords potential breeding habitat for the long-eared owl, a state species of special concern. With Douglas fir dominated forests, oak woodlands, chaparral, and open meadowlands, Mindego Ranch showcases the great
biodiversity of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Plant species of special concern potentially
present are western leatherwood, Ben Lomond buckwheat, legenere, and Dudley’s lousewort.

A Tradition of Grazing

Mindego Ranch has been the site of an active grazing operation, managed by the True family who have owned the ranch since 1954. When the tenant lease expires in October 2008, the District will manage the grassland habitat through conservation grazing and will prepare a long-term grazing management plan in accordance with the District’s
Coastside Service Plan and its Grazing Management Policy.

An Opportunity for Public Access

Beginning this fall, the public will have the opportunity to visit Mindego Ranch by participating in a series of docent-led hikes featured in Outdoor Activities. (Please refer to page 3 for the schedule of activities.) Hike participants will enjoy 360-degree views that extend all the way to Monterey Bay from atop Mindego Hill’s 2,143-foot peak.

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