Congress Approves Final $4 Million for Federal Protection of POST's Rancho Corral de Tierra

Completion of Funding Allows POST to Move Forward with Transfer of Land to National Park Service this Summer

Property Poised to Become New Southern Gateway into Golden Gate National Recreation Area

May 21, 2011

(Palo Alto, Calif.) — Congress has approved $4 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for protection of Rancho Corral de Tierra near Montara. This is the fourth and final installment of appropriations necessary to complete the transfer of this vast Coastside property seven miles south of San Francisco from Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

In 2005, the Interior Department supported the expansion of the GGNRA, the largest urban national park in the country, to include Rancho Corral de Tierra within its boundaries. Next, Congress had to designate federal appropriations toward the purchase of the land. This final phase of funding approved now brings the total set aside by Congress to $15 million, clearing the way for POST to complete the land transfer to the National Park Service by this summer.

“Rancho Corral de Tierra is a spectacular piece of wild coastal land right in our urban backyard,” said POST President Audrey C. Rust. “This property has everything you could ask for—dramatic mountain terrain, sweeping coastal views, rare and endangered plants and wildlife, critical watersheds, miles of trails. It’s no wonder adding this property to the GGNRA is the second highest priority in the country for the National Park Service. This landscape is of national as well as local significance and will serve as a lasting natural and recreational resource for everyone in San Francisco and the Bay Area.”

The Bay Area Congressional delegation, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has long championed this project. “The acquisition of Rancho Corral de Tierra completes an expansion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as called for by legislation I authored in 2005,” said Sen. Feinstein. “The addition of this land to the National Recreation Area completes more than a decade of work to protect one of the largest undeveloped land parcels in the Bay Area, which can now be enjoyed by many generations to come.”

POST acquired 4,262-acre Rancho Corral de Tierra in three phases beginning in 2001 for a total of $29.75 million. The purchase was part of the nonprofit land trust’s 2001-2005 Saving the Endangered Coast campaign to save 20,000 acres along the San Mateo Coast. Until POST stepped in, proposed development of up to 40 private luxury estates and a golf course threatened to spoil the land’s wild splendor and rich natural resources. Private donations plus $9 million from the California Coastal Conservancy and $5 million from the Wildlife Conservation Board made POST’s acquisition possible.

Over the past 10 years, POST has worked diligently with legislators and park officials to secure permanent federal protection of Rancho Corral de Tierra. The land trust plans to transfer 3,939 acres of the property to the National Park Service by the end of June, selling the land for approximately half its original purchase price. POST will hold back the remaining acreage as agricultural working land.

Incorporating Rancho Corral de Tierra into the GGNRA will create a new southern gateway into the park and help connect the Bay Area Ridge Trail with the California Coastal Trail. It will also provide permanent protection of four Coastside watersheds—Denniston, San Vicente, Montara and Martini creeks—and preserve critical habitat for unique and endangered plants and animals, including Montara manzanita, Hickman’s cinquefoil, peregrine falcon, San Bruno elfin butterfly, San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog.

“We are pleased Congress has provided funding to complete the purchase of Rancho Corral de Tierra,” said Frank Dean, Superintendent of the GGNRA. “This magnificent parcel adds to the region’s exceptional open space lands, and extends existing national parklands on Milagra Ridge and Sweeney Ridge southward to the Coastside of San Mateo County. We thank POST for their effort over many years to make the protection of this land a reality. We will continue to engage the Coastside community in planning for Rancho Corral de Tierra as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.”

Historically known as Rancho Corral de Tierra Palomares, the property encompasses the majority of the 1839 Mexican Land Grant to Francisco Guerrero y Palomares, where he built the first adobe on the San Mateo Coast at Denniston Creek. Rising up from Highway 1 to a peak of 1,898 feet at Montara Mountain, the property encompasses the northern spine of the Santa Cruz Mountain range and surrounds the coastal towns of Montara and Moss Beach. Its strategic location connects more than 27,000 acres of contiguous protected open space, including McNee Ranch State Park, San Pedro Valley County Park and San Francisco watershed lands.

“The protection of Rancho Corral de Tierra is a perfect illustration of how POST works and what we can accomplish,” said Rust. “POST was able to acquire the land and hold onto it for 10 years until we could find the right partners and achieve the best scenario for permanent protection of this landmark property. Most land trusts or conservation organizations do not have that capability. The only way to do this kind of project is to attract funding that allows us to stick with something for that long. Our remarkably loyal and generous donors are the ones who make that possible.”