A regional land preservation organization recently purchased a 1,986-acre ranch in west Morgan Hill, pledging to permanently protect the property that includes sweeping views and critical wildlife crossings, as well as homes for native and endangered species.
The Peninsula Open Space Trust announced on April 5 that it had purchased Lakeside Ranch for $22.36 million. Adjacent to the shore of Chesbro Reservoir and extending northwest through Coyote Valley, Lakeside Ranch is one of the largest remaining intact ranches in the South Bay, according to POST.
The property links with other protected lands on three sides—including a 2.5-mile border with the Tilton Ranch—and brings the amount of preserved open space and working lands in Coyote Valley to more than 10,000 acres.
“This acquisition significantly expands the open space that connects San José and Morgan Hill, providing numerous environmental benefits to the surrounding communities and offering the potential for eventually expanding outdoor recreation in the area,” says a press release from POST.
The purchase of Lakeside Ranch is the latest in a long line of efforts by POST, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency and county parks to keep Coyote Valley largely undisturbed or available for low-impact recreational uses. Beyond the 2,500-acre Tilton Ranch (which was jointly purchased by these preservation agencies in 2020) on the north side of Lakeside Ranch is the 348-acre Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve in north Morgan Hill.
To the west of Lakeside Ranch is the 5,428-acre Rancho Canada del Oro Preserve, and to the north is Calero County Park, which is about 4,471 acres, according to POST.
“This is a keystone conservation acquisition that will help to boost landscape-scale climate resilience and benefit the surrounding communities,” said Walter T. Moore, president of POST. “We are grateful to our donors and funders—especially the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has been generous in its support of our conservation efforts and an exceptional partner offering financing on Lakeside Ranch.”
Lakeside Ranch has belonged to a privately held company since the 1950s, according to POST. It has been operated as a cattle ranch, and was once home to a private equestrian stable. Livestock grazing will continue on a 1,900-acre portion of the ranch after POST closes on the property purchase.
The ranch sits on the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, including the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.
Lakeside Ranch has been cited for years as a top conservation priority, according to POST. The property provides connectivity for wildlife moving between the Santa Cruz Mountains in the west, the Diablo range in the east and the Gabilan range to the south.
“Protecting these pathways from development ensures continued wildlife passage between habitats, which is essential to maintaining biodiversity throughout the entire region,” says the press release.
Llagas Creek runs through Lakeside Ranch, flowing south to the Chesbro Reservoir and beyond to the Pajaro River, which flows south to Monterey Bay.
The ranch supports a large variety native land cover vegetation, dominated by oak woodland habitat, according to POST. It provides habitat for numerous plant and animal species, including the western pond turtle, Santa Clara Valley dudleya, pink creamsacs, serpentine leptosiphon, Hall’s bush mallow, most beautiful jewelflower and smooth lessingia.
POST is working with the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency on a plan for long-term stewardship of Lakeside Ranch. The management plan and future transfer of the property may involve conservation partners in addition to VHA. POST will own and manage Lakeside until those arrangements are finalized, says the press release.
The purchase of Lakeside Ranch was largely funded by an investment from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a Bay Area environmental conservation organization.