A majestic 260-acre private property just west of Gilroy is on track to expand the forested sanctuary of Mt. Madonna County Park, a natural gem and popular recreation area located on Pole Line Road off Hecker Pass.
The recently acquired property known as Triple Buck Ranch and bordering Mt. Madonna County Park on three sides was purchased for $2 million by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a Palo Alto-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting and caring for open space, farms and parkland in Silicon Valley.
The purchase will enable the County of Santa Clara to eventually expand Mt. Madonna County Park, an outdoors mecca revered by locals and South Bay visitors for its pristine hiking paths, meandering horseback trails and beautiful campgrounds nestled beneath thick redwood canopies. The ancient ruins of a summer home that once belonged to 1800s cattle baron Henry Miller is a popular attraction nestled in the heart of the park.
POST bought Triple Buck Nov. 13 from Frank Della Maggiora. The Italian native emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and eventually settled in the Garlic Capital. He graduated from Gilroy High School in 1954 and has lived in the area ever since.
“I didn’t want it to developed,” he said. “And I figure, Open Space wants to pass that on to the park.”
He hopes Madonna and Triple Buck will one day be linked by a system of trails.
Della Maggiora, a retired developer who now works part-time at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Gilroy, bought Triple Buck Ranch in 1973 with a group of business partners and eventually assumed sole ownership in 2002.
An avid outdoorsman who owns a private duck hunting club in Los Banos, Della Maggiora describes the ranch with fondness and familiarity.
“It’s a unique piece of land…it’s real majestic,” says the 78-year-old, still touting a heavy Italian accent. “You have redwood trees that are huge. Two people cannot put their arms around it. I used to walk through there and just look. I called it my cathedral…it is gorgeous. I’m hoping that 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the line, somebody will say, ‘I’m glad somebody didn’t develop this.’”
POST purchased Triple Buck with the assistance of a $750,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy, according to a press release on the POST website. The ranch contains a mix of grassland, oak woodland and some redwood forest. Wildflowers flourish in the higher elevations, and a creek called Little Arthur winds its way across the landscape for half a mile, the press release explains.
In addition to Little Arthur’s importance as a perennial waterway, the creek is one of the most productive steelhead spawning sites in Santa Clara County, according to POST.
Della Maggiora learned about POST at a community meeting in 2008 and became interested in permanently protecting the area as open space.
“I’ve seen a lot of land subdivided over the years, and I always wanted this property not to be subdivided,” he said. “I thought POST would be the ideal group to work with to avoid that. The land will be there forever.”
POST President Walter T. Moore states the organization is happy to preserve another 20,000 acres of redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as contributing to the resurgence of the threatened steelhead trout population.
POST will hold onto the land until the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department is able to take permanent ownership of the land, although it is unclear how long that will take.
The Parks and Recreation Department works with POST and other partners when mutual benefits of public access to parks and conservation can be achieved, according to the press release.
“This beautiful piece of property will ultimately expand Mt. Madonna County Park and be a great addition to our county park system,” District 1 Supervisor Mike Wasserman states.
“You have redwood trees that are huge. Two people cannot put their arms around it. I used to walk through there and just look. I called it my cathedral…it is gorgeous.”