Golden Gate National Recreation Area Grows by 3,800 Acres

The Rancho Corral de Tierra tract includes some prime California terrain. NPS photo.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area has grown by nearly 4,000 acres, and taxpayers got a bargain, with the transfer of a prime tract known as the Rancho Corral de Tierra from the Peninsula Open Space Trust to the National Park Service.

It has been a lengthy process, and one which illustrates the importance of non-profit groups such as POST when key parcels of potential park land are threatened by development, but federal funding can't be obtained in a timely manner.

POST acquired the 4,262-acre Rancho Corral de Tierra in three phases beginning in 2001 for a total of $29.75 million. A spokesperson for the group said proposed development of up to 40 private luxury estates and a golf course threatened to spoil the land’s wild splendor and rich natural resources.

“Rancho Corral de Tierra is a spectacular piece of wild coastal land right in our urban backyard,” said POST President Audrey C. Rust. “This property has everything you could ask for—dramatic mountain terrain, sweeping coastal views, rare and endangered plants and wildlife, critical watersheds, miles of trails…. This landscape is of national as well as local significance and will serve as a lasting natural and recreational resource for everyone in San Francisco and the Bay Area.”

Incorporating Rancho Corral de Tierra into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area will create a new southern gateway into the park and help connect the Bay Area Ridge Trail with the California Coastal Trail. The project will also provide permanent protection of four Coastside watersheds—Denniston, San Vicente, Montara and Martini creeks—and preserve critical habitat for unique and endangered plants and animals.

"We are pleased that Congress has provided funding to complete the purchase of Rancho Corral de Tierra," said Golden Gate Superintendent Frank Dean. "This magnificent parcel adds to the region's protected open space, and helps extend existing national parklands on Milagra Ridge and Sweeney Ridge southward in the Coastside of San Mateo County."

Rising up from Highway 1 to a peak of 1,898 feet at Montara Mountain, the property encompasses the northern spine of the Santa Cruz Mountain range and surrounds the coastal towns of Montara and Moss Beach. Its strategic location connects more than 27,000 acres of contiguous protected open space, including McNee Ranch State Park, San Pedro Valley County Park and San Francisco watershed lands.

The acquisition seems like a good bargain for taxpayers. POST sold most of the property to the NPS for about half of what the group paid for it, which works out to about $3950 per acre. The NPS acquisition was spread over four payments, using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Private donations plus $9 million from the California Coastal Conservancy and $5 million from the Wildlife Conservation Board made POST’s acquisition and subsequent transfer to the park possible.

POST will retain about 450 of the 4,262 acres acquired by the group as agricultural working land, and a park spokesperson notes, "Visitors to Rancho Corral de Tierra should be aware that the stables and farms in the area (Oceanview Farms, Cabrillo Farms, Renegade Ranch, Ember Ridge, and Moss Beach Ranch) are working operations. Visitors should not enter these properties or approach the animals without permission."

"The process of transforming the property into a park is only just beginning," the park announcement continued. "In the coming months, the National Park Service will work with the local communities and public land agencies in the Coastside to develop maps and signage on the existing network of trails, and develop a long-term plan for the new national park site."

If you're interested in more details about the process of incorporating the new land into the park, you'll find some information at this link.