Earlier this month, we announced an exciting plan. Soon, we intend to transfer 6,300 acres of the Cloverdale Ranch to Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen). Located near Pescadero on the San Mateo County Coast, this property includes almost 10 square miles of rare California coastal ecosystems. We’re thrilled to play a role in preserving a landscape that is vital to regional biodiversity, environmental health and the local economy.
During a public meeting on December 10, Midpen’s board of directors gave final approval for the purchase, which will unfold in phases. We anticipate that the first two phases of the transfer — totaling 5,100 acres — will occur in the first half of 2023. Once transferred, Midpen will protect and manage the property in perpetuity.
“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. “This vast ecological and agricultural jewel on the Coastside is poised to become Midpen’s 27th public open space preserve and to be protected and managed in perpetuity for environmental restoration, viable agriculture and ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.”
Side note: If you’re curious about POST’s decades-long partnership with Midpen and want to know who does what, we’ve got you covered. This recent blog post gets into the nuances of our distinct (but totally complementary!) roles.
Cloverdale Ranch rises from the San Mateo County coast through rolling grasslands to the forested slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains. What’s more, it connects with more than 31,000 acres of surrounding park and open space land. It provides critical wildlife corridors for a wide number of land and water species.
Cloverdale represents one of POST’s largest land projects ever, not only in terms of size, but environmental impact as well. Its transfer to Midpen ensures that one of the biggest intact coastal terrace prairies in San Mateo County will remain preserved.
As a public agency, Midpen currently manages 26 public open space preserves. These include 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,” said Walter T. Moore, president of POST. “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.”
Since 1997, POST has protected more than 8,200 acres at Cloverdale Ranch through multiple land purchases. In the years before the Midpen agreement, POST transferred around 930 acres of the property to California State Parks. These acres became part of Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Butano and Año Nuevo State Parks.
Farmland is also a component of the property. Approximately 550 acres are currently leased to local farmers as part of POST’s farmland protection program. Following the transfers to Midpen, POST will continue to own and manage the remaining row-crop farmland and coastal bluff parcels.
A permanently protected Cloverdale Ranch represents a public-private investment of more than $60 million in combined purchase, restoration and stewardship costs made over the span of more than two decades.
As approved by its board, Midpen will purchase approximately 5,100 acres from POST in 2023, with an option to purchase an additional 1,200 acres in 2025. The total purchase is significantly discounted to $16.2 million and includes $9.9 million in grant funding and Measure AA bond funding. The 2023 transfer includes the existing Wilbur’s Watch Trail, which will remain open to the public.
“POST has invested in Cloverdale for over a quarter century – in land protection, restoration and stewardship. Our goal is that with the transfer to Midpen, the public will receive the multiple natural resource and recreation benefits of this extraordinary landscape for many years to come,” Moore added.
This property includes multiple ecosystems, fish spawning habitat and rare intact coastal terrace prairie.It provides habitat to more than 600 plant species, including five special-status species. These include Scouler’s catchfly, Point Reyes meadowfoam (endangered), Choris’s popcorn flower, harlequin lotus and johnny-nip. Numerous special-status creatures call these lands home, such as San Francisco garter snake, California red-legged frog, western pond turtle, American badger and California coast steelhead. Additionally, there are mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and deer. Winged creatures abound as well, including monarch butterflies and other insects, numerous migratory bird species and several bat species.
Cloverdale is a property with uniquely abundant water sources, both natural and man-made. Its 15 miles of streams and three critical watersheds support habitat for many rare, threatened and endangered species. Its network of springs, wells, ponds and surface-water diversions support both agricultural uses and habitat connectivity.
Some key water features of Cloverdale include:
Cloverdale is located along the Pacific flyway for migrating birds, while also supporting nesting local bird species such as the savannah sparrow. On the ground, this landscape provides critical wildlife passage between coastal grassland and forest habitats. Myriad species make use of this passageway, such as mountain lion, American badger, burrowing owl and others.
Cloverdale is part of the territory of the Quiroste Tribe, one of some 50 independent tribal groups that compose the Ohlone. The Quiroste people cultivated and stewarded the abundant resources of Pescadero Marsh and occupied multiple village sites at the time of European contact in the 1770s. The Quiroste and other Ohlone tribes managed the lands for many purposes, including growing food and regularly burning the grasslands. Native people have remained present in this region through the Mexican and early-American periods and into the present day. Midpen and POST work with tribal governments and Indigenous descendants and communities – including Muwekma Ohlone, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and Association of Ramaytush Ohlone – to reconnect with the land across the region.
After the ownership transfer, Midpen plans to manage the upland portion of the property. Cloverdale Ranch will constitute its 27th open space preserve for wildlife protection, conservation grazing and land stewardship. Midpen’s planning process to explore potential future recreational trail connections is expected to take many years. It will include extensive study and public input to balance natural resource protection, local community interests and public safety. In the interim, Midpen plans to offer guided public access opportunities, and will continue providing public access to the existing Wilbur’s Watch trail.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more