San Rafael, CA – After years of collaboration, three parcels of residentially zoned land within the town limits of Fairfax and San Anselmo will at last become part of the County of Marin’s Bald Hill Open Space Preserve.
Upon the close of escrow August 17, Marin County Parks announced that its first major acquisition using Measure A funds is 16.2 acres known locally as Sky Ranch, previously used for equestrian boarding. The hilly property is about three-quarters of a mile southeast of downtown Fairfax, a half mile due east of downtown San Anselmo and due north of the existing Bald Hill Preserve.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal for the Marin County Open Space District, under the direction of Marin County Parks, to purchase Sky Ranch for $630,000 at its April 28, 2015, meeting. The nonprofit Marin Open Space Trust (MOST) had purchased Sky Ranch from the Cary family in February 2015 for an estimated $1.2 million. Marin County Parks used $330,000 from Measure A taxpayer proceeds and a $300,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to make the purchase, which comes at a substantial discount below fair market value.
Bald Hill Preserve grows to 46 acres with the acquisition and connects it to more than 100,000 acres of additional public lands and hundreds of miles of public trails stretching west to Point Reyes and south to the Golden Gate.
“This is a victory for fans of open space preservation and anybody who wants Marin to retain as much of the county’s beautiful natural landscape as possible,” said Carl Somers, Chief of Planning and Acquisition for Marin County Parks. “We heartily commend all parties who contributed to this transfer. It was a breathtaking team effort. Bald Hill will be even more of a destination for local residents and visitors now.”
In recognition of Sky Ranch’s history as a horse boarding facility, Marin County Parks plans to develop day use facilities oriented to the needs of equestrian visitors. After a full assessment of property assets and an evaluation of wildlife habitat conditions, the County will make recommended improvements to the new combined parcel. Plans are in the works to update the day-use facility with picnic tables, hitching posts, water troughs and a small paddock.
In its most recent form, the equestrian boarding area occupied less than a quarter of Sky Ranch; the rest includes oak and bay woodlands and other native vegetation. According to the Open Space District’s draft Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan, the area adjacent to Sky Ranch supports unique or irreplaceable remnants of natural biological diversity along with other vegetation types with high biological value. Portions of Sky Ranch also could be classified the same way, according to County staff. Sky Ranch is home to native wildlife such as raptors, rabbits, deer, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions.
Marin County Parks had identified Sky Ranch as a high-priority acquisition area, and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) had labeled the three parcels as priority conservation areas. The towns of Fairfax and San Anselmo combined resources with the Marin Municipal Water District and other organizations and individuals to help MOST acquire the property. MOST raised $85,000 for site stabilization and rehabilitation prior to the County’s acquisition.
The purchase was partially funded by Measure A, a quarter-cent retail transactions and use tax approved by voters in November 2012 to care for Marin’s existing parks and open spaces, support regional community parks projects and programs, and further farmland preservation.