1,312 Acres of Ranchland in San Gregorio Protected by POST, Arata Family

October 19, 2004

Menlo Park, Calif. – Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) has teamed up with one of the oldest farming families in San Mateo County to permanently preserve 1,312 acres of ranchland in San Gregorio.

Following several months of negotiation, POST has agreed to purchase a conservation easement from the Arata family for $4.7 million. The easement will prohibit subdivision and development and enable the continuation of agriculture on the 1,161-acre Arata Ranch and the adjacent 151-acre Seaside School Ridge property.

The Ranch is located near the junction of Highways 1 and 84 in San Gregorio. It features picturesque rolling hills, pasture and farmland, and offers sweeping views of the entire coastal landscape.

The Arata Ranch is owned by brothers John and Clarence Arata, both in their mid-80s, who have farmed the land for 65 years. Under terms of the conservation easement, the brothers will continue to own the land and also take title to the Seaside School Ridge parcel, which POST had purchased from private owners last year. The easement will encompass both properties.

"We've spent 65 years farming our ranch and 30 years on Seaside School Ridge," John Arata said. "We've had lots of offers for our land from people who wanted to build on it. Maybe we'd be billionaires if we sold the land, but it's not our thing. We want it to stay just the way it is."

"This is a good deal for everyone," Clarence Arata agreed. "We get some money, and we still own the ranch. We don't want a bunch of homes built out here. We know POST isn't going to change anything."

Conservation easements, also known as land preservation agreements, are voluntary legal agreements between landowners and conservation organizations. They allow landowners to restrict development and protect natural resources on their property while retaining private ownership of the land.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to accomplish our mission–saving natural open land–and work with a family whose history in the area goes back to the 1930s," said POST President Audrey Rust. "The Arata family has been farming this land for three generations. I have enjoyed spending time with them, touring their land and listening to their colorful stories of life on the ranch. They have a deep connection to this land and don't want to see it developed. This easement allows them to protect the land and get some financial security.

John's father, John Arata, Sr., bought the ranch in 1939, and the family raised dairy cattle on it for 40 years. Today, the Aratas graze beef cattle and grow hay, oats and barley. John, 86-years old, and Clarence, 84, get up every morning to feed their 250 cows. John's son, Gary, 56, now does most of the farming.

"This is a great thing," Gary Arata said. "The ranch stays in the family, and POST gives us help to carry on. We've saved the ranch from being developed. That's my goal. It always has been and always will be."

In recent years, several estate homes have been built near Stage Road, around the Arata Ranch. Both the Seaside School Ridge and Arata properties had attracted the interest of potential developers.

"The land is highly visible from highways 1 and 84," Rust said. "It's the gateway to the Pomponio Valley. Development would have spoiled the scenic landscape and rural character of the area. It's one of the few places left where time truly has stood still, where you don't hear any traffic noise, where you get a true sense of how man and nature can coexist."

The property is characterized by expansive hay fields and well-grazed hillsides. Water resources include Pomponio Creek and several unnamed tributaries, ponds and springs. The high ridgelines feature grand, 360-degree vistas of the Pacific Ocean, San Gregorio and Pomponio Valleys, north to Montara Mountain and south towards Pescadero.

In the future, public trails may be created on the property with potential connections to POST's San Gregorio Farms and Pomponio State Beach.