If I had a dollar for every time someone mistook the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) for POST and vice versa, well, you know how the saying goes… And it’s no wonder that it’s hard to tell us apart. Not only do we share the same professional field, but we’ve also worked in many of the same literal fields; that is, the local outdoor areas we protect. If you’re feeling a little lost, don’t worry: each organization plays a distinct and important function. It all comes down to who does what and when.
This year, Midpen is celebrating their 50th anniversary, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner. So, in their honor, let’s clear up some of the confusion, shall we?
POST was actually the brainchild of Midpen! After the formation of Midpen in 1972 through the will of local voters, Midpen’s leaders discovered that as a public agency, it was hard for them to negotiate with landowners in private and buy property quickly enough to keep up with the Bay Area’s fast pace of development.
Then-General Manager Herb Grench proposed the creation of a land trust to raise money to supplement public funding for land conservation and work confidentially with landowners when the need arose. And so, in 1977, POST was born. POST has since grown to become one of the premier land trusts in the country and is an invaluable partner to national, state and county agencies in land stewardship and conservation.
A segment from OpenRoad with Doug McConnell explains the partnership between POST and Midpen.
As a nonprofit, POST navigates land acquisitions with agility and efficiency. As a public agency, Midpen is equipped to manage the land for the long-term in order to protect and restore its natural resources, as well as provide for and manage ecologically sensitive public access.
Our two organizations work closely together. POST raises money to buy the land, works privately with willing sellers and then transfers land to Midpen and other agencies (typically with legal protections called conservation easements in place which make properties more affordable and ensure the land is forever protected). Midpen focuses on ongoing preserve management and maintenance.
POST protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. We have four focus areas including preserving redwoods, creating connected landscapes for wildlife, ensuring equitable public access and protecting farmland — and we approach all of our efforts with an eye toward building climate change resilience and maintaining biodiversity. To date, we have protected over 82,000 acres of land, much of which has been transferred for long-term management to Midpen and other agencies.
Once we protect a piece of land, POST gets to work restoring damaged or neglected landscapes, which is an issue more often than you might expect. At the same time, Midpen will go through their public approval process and secure necessary funds to affect a smooth transfer and ongoing stewardship of the lands. We often continue to support restoration work even after we no longer own the land.
Supported primarily by local property taxes, Midpen is an independent special district governed by a seven-member publicly elected board of directors that meets twice monthly and invites the public to participate. Their boundaries include parts of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, from Pacifica to south of Los Gatos, and from the bayshore to the Pacific Ocean.
Midpen’s purpose is to create a regional greenbelt of public open space and agricultural lands in order to permanently protect and restore the area’s natural resources and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education. Throughout their rich history, they have preserved over 65,000 acres of public land and they currently manage 26 public open space preserves throughout the greater Santa Cruz Mountains region.
Clearly visible from many spots along the Peninsula, Windy Hill was POST’s first large land project, protected in part in 1981. Midpen then purchased the 537-acre property from POST. This popular preserve near Portola Valley remains an iconic symbol of the public-private partnership between Midpen and POST. Today, it’s an ideal spot for flying kites, walking dogs, mountain biking and horseback riding.
In 2002, POST acquired the 3,681-acre Driscoll Ranch property, a working cattle ranch that had been zoned for luxury homes. After Midpen purchased this land from POST in 2006, it was incorporated into the much-loved La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, a beautiful multi-benefit landscape. Today, this preserves offers more than 11 miles of trails, including the recently opened 1.3-mile Grasshopper Loop Trail, which traverses working ranchlands, coastal grasslands, oak woodlands and redwood forests with expansive viewpoints along the way. Together with the community, Midpen created a master plan for this preserve that identifies the long-term management plans for environmental restoration projects and continuing to build out the preserve’s trail system.
Mindego Hill’s 2,143-foot peak overlooks a heritage ranch with sweeping views and incredible trails. POST preserved this landscape in 2007 and later transferred it to Midpen, who now manages it as part of the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. In 2016, the Mindego Hill portion of the preserve opened to the public including a dramatic lookout point at Mindego Gateway, a commemorative site honoring former POST President Audrey C. Rust for her 24 years of conservation leadership.
A half a century later, the Midpen-POST partnership continues to provide beautiful and functional landscapes for all to enjoy in this extraordinarily biodiverse place we call home. The Bay Area would look completely different without the visionary leadership of a few people in the 1970s. And our combined ability to adapt to changing needs and collaborate on local conservation has made us better — together.
Today, Midpen is exploring taking ownership of several significant POST-protected landscapes, including Johnston Ranch in Half Moon Bay and Cloverdale Ranch in Pescadero, and POST is supporting Midpen on important projects like wildlife and trail crossings for Highway 17.
The future of these natural lands and their incredible wildlife is in good hands.
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 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more