The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District acquired Toto Ranch from the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a move that conserves 952 acres of picturesque land along Highway 1 for grass-fed meat production.
"This property offers the district an opportunity to preserve the rural character and support local agriculture,” said Steve Abbors, who oversees daily operations for the MROSD.
"The sustainable farming practices used at Toto Ranch resonate with the District’s mission and we’re excited to be integrating them into our land management program," Abbors said. He said protecting the land would also result in the protection of the land and water, which are a foundation of healthy ecosystems.
The Markegard family will continue to manage the property, as they have for the past 25 years, said Mike Williams, who manages parcel transactions for the MROSD.
The district oversees about 61,000 acres of land in 26 preserves that were acquired to safeguard the pristine open spaces in perpetuity. The properties are valued at about $400 million, according to the district’s records.
The Toto Ranch is one of the largest open spaces on the coastside and has changed owners a few times.
On Jan. 2, 2009, Kathleen Scutchfield of Woodside sold the ranch to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) for $3 million, even though the appraised value at the time was more than $7 million. The difference in the values qualified her for significant tax deductions.
The MROSD paid POST $3,775,000 for the land, according to a report prepared for the district’s board of directors. It will be added to the Tunitas Creek Open Space Preserve, which is about 45 minutes west of Menlo Park and 18 minutes south of Half Moon Bay.
"When POST originally acquired this land from private owners in 2009, it was at risk for potential subdivision and development into private luxury estates," said Walter T. Moore, POST President.
"Now, thanks to our ongoing partnership with the District, this highly visible property along Highway 1 will remain permanently protected," Moore said.
The property is a habitat for bobcats, golden eagles, yellow warblers, California red-legged frogs, steelhead trout and coho salmon.
"This project presents a unique opportunity to continue existing agricultural activities on the land while maintaining vital natural resources. Eventually, through the District's management, this property will also provide exceptional outdoor recreation for the public," Moore said.
Docent-led hikes and farm exploration tours may be offered to the public in the future.
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