The Conservation Fund purchased the Richmond Ranch on Jan. 22, a 3,653-acre property in southern Santa Clara County.
The Fund is a national organization that provides money to bridge the acquisition of conservation lands by private and public sources. In this case, they are buying the land from Chinese developer Z&N and selling it piecemeal over years to Santa Clara County.
The land itself is a bridge of sorts. From its location at the southern neck of San Felipe Road, it will allow the county to expand the Bay Area Ridge Trail with connections between the East Foothills, Coyote Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Appraised at $37 million, the Conservation Fund bought it for $16 million, according to Edmond Sullivan, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency. His agency paired up with Valley Water to buy an initial 955.23-acre parcel for $4.5 million, which will be deeded to them from the fund by week’s end, he said.
The next step is for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to approve the plan, which, over the years, would place the entire property in the hands of the Santa Clara County Department of Parks. But the land would be co-managed with Valley Habitat.
“I’m confident they will approve it,” Sullivan said of the supervisors, adding that they plan to acquire 1,400 acres sometime in the spring.
A public statement in support of the projects was issued Monday from San Jose City Councilmember Domingo Candelas and Santa Clara County Supervisor Sylvia Arenas.
“I urge my colleagues to vote ‘yes’ to continue our ongoing partnership to preserve habitat, improve wildlife corridor connectivity, and provide public access to the growing and interconnected County Parks and Habitat Reserve systems,” Arenas said.
The lush properties were originally acquired in the 1920s and 1930s by Edmund N. Richmond, co-founder of Richmond-Chase Company. The cannery was one of the largest employers in the Valley. The land has been an active cattle ranch since that time. It has been continuously held by the Richmond family, according to the property listing with Chickering Real Estate.
The family trust sold it to Z&L Properties around 2017 when senior family members passed away, Sullivan said.
Sullivan estimates the Valley Habitat Agency will acquire another 1,200 acres from the Conservation Fund by 2025 using state grants from the Wildlife Conservation Board, President Biden’s 30 X 30 conservation program and the Coastal Conservancy.
“Part of it will be set aside for wildlife and part of it will be for recreation,” Sullivan said. “We still must go through that process of where the best places are to put trails and staging areas and all of that, but we will be partnering with the county on the management of it. And we’ll manage it jointly with them forever.”
The agencies are implementing federal and state endangered species laws at the local level, said Sullivan. Federal and state governments are very supportive, he said, because that property has a lot of rare and threatened animals and plants on it.
“Serpentine grasslands have rare plants in rare insects associated with it including the Bay Checkerspot butterfly,” Sullivan said, adding the rocky soils, poor in nutrients, are where the butterfly flourishes.
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