State buys Gilroy Hot Springs

A small bridge, photographed in 2001, leads to several indoor

– Historic Gilroy Hot Springs has been sold to the California
Department of Parks and Recreation and will be added to Henry W.
Coe State Park.
MORGAN HILL – Historic Gilroy Hot Springs has been sold to the California Department of Parks and Recreation and will be added to Henry W. Coe State Park.

The state Parks and Recreation Department announced Thursday that it had purchased 242 acres of healthy oak woodland and riparian community from The Nature Conservancy for $2.4 million.

The purchase was made possible from Proposition 12 bond-act money.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to preserve and protect this historic landmark and key area of open space and wildlife habitat,” said Curtis L. Price, superintendent for Henry W. Coe and other nearby state parks. “This is a wonderful addition to California State Parks. Walking through the area one experiences a sense of peace and serenity.”

Listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, Gilroy Hot Springs is located eight miles east of Morgan Hill off Cañada Road. It features blue oak, black oak and coast live oak, and more than a mile of frontage on Coyote Creek, a watershed important as a source of drinking water and as a habitat for rare California red-legged frogs and foothill yellow-legged frogs.

“This property transition represents a successful collaboration between California State Parks and The Nature Conservancy to strengthen a vast network of protected open spaces that will increase the quality of life for Bay Area residents,” said Jody Williams, project manager with The Nature Conservancy’s Central Coast Ecoregion.

Gilroy Hot Springs lies in the center of The Nature Conservancy’s Mt. Hamilton Project, an area one-and-a-half times the size of Yosemite. This area is a refuge for plants, animals and people. It is rich in vegetation – oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods and willows – as well as animals such as bobcats, mountain lions, tule elk and golden eagles. The goal of the Mt. Hamilton Project is to protect the native species and natural habitat of a 1.2 million-acre region that lies between San Jose and Silicon Valley and the Central Valley.

Gilroy Hot Springs was once a popular resort. In 1866, George W. Roop and William F. Oldham purchased 160 acres. During the 1870s to the 1920s, the owners expanded the property to its present size and erected a number of buildings, including cabins, a bathhouse, a swimming pool (now filled in), dressing rooms, a three-story hotel, a single-story clubhouse and a two-story sleeping annex.

In 1938, H.K. Sakata bought the property and built several new cabins. The sleeping annex was demolished in 1946, and the hotel and clubhouse burned down in 1980. Sakata sold the property to an investment group that used it for hunting. This group in turn sold it to Masaru Seido who then sold it to The Nature Conservancy.

“We will work to obtain funding to improve and restore the culturally significant features this property has, as well as preserving and protecting this natural habitat,” Price said. The area will remain closed – the gate is locked – until a management plan is implemented and safety issues are addressed.

Park officials will seek local contributions to the management planning process but have not yet determined if they will use a survey or public meetings. They can also use bulletins or a contact list of interested residents. The state parks and Pine Ridge Association Web sites will have information when available.

Tours of the springs are planned, possibly as early as spring 2004. Contact information will be widely published when details are arranged.

Henry Coe State Park is the second largest – after Anza Borrego east of San Diego – in the more than 260 state park system. It covers more than 87,000 acres – without the hot springs – of open space and is open year-round.