The Blair ranching family has agreed to sell its 868-acre ranch
on the western edge of Morgan Hill to a private trust for $8.68
The Blair ranching family has agreed to sell its 868-acre ranch on the western edge of Morgan Hill to a private trust for $8.68 million.
The land will then be sold to the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority and preserved as a public park, according to a release from the Palo Alto-based Peninsula Open Space Trust.
“The pressure to build luxury ranchettes and private estates in the western hills of south Santa Clara County is intense,” said Audrey Rust, president of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. “This project will be a dramatic leap forward for conservation here.”
The purchase won’t be complete until at least March 2008 as trust officials complete due diligence on the land. Escrow is expected to close at that time and the land would be transferred to Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, said its manager Patrick Congdon.
The authority is expected to incorporate the land into the adjacent Rancho Canada del Oro Open Space Preserve, a portion of which was bought from the trust in 2003. “The proposed addition would help create a future trail and wildlife corridor weaving through Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve and Calero, Uvas Reservoir, Uvas Canyon and Almaden Quicksilver county parks,” according to a news release.
The authority is also interested in maintaining cattle grazing on ranches such as Blair and the adjacent Rancho Canada del Oro, where Justin Fields, of the Fields family, still grazes cattle, and it would allow him to “continue grazing on the property,” Congdon said.
The authority has approached the Coastal Conservancy and Santa Clara County officials for financial assistance for the $2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to use for the purchase.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors must approve the transaction as well, which should be “fairly easy,” Congdon said.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said he didn’t know the details about the agreement and therefore couldn’t comment. But, he said the county has “the parks charter fund to purchase land” and added that “anytime we can get land and put it in open space is a good thing.”
The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the pending agreement when the authority’s board reviews it. Congdon said staff hopes to present the agreement to the board at its Dec. 13 meeting.
A message left for Richard Blair, grandson of the late farmer Ralph Johnson, the owner of the land, wasn’t immediately returned. However, in the past year, developer interest in the Blair family property has waned as it became clear that the family wanted to sell to a land conservation group, Congdon said.
The trust “is acting now to protect this land before it’s too late,” Rust said in the news release. “Once land like this is built up, there’s no way to bring it back to its original state. Not only do the animals lose out, people living here lose out, too, because views are ruined and the character of the landscape they know and love is forever changed.”