Home Nature preserves The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District celebrates its 50th anniversary

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District celebrates its 50th anniversary


by Linda Hubbard February 18, 2022

Growing up in Menlo Park, my family home was perfectly located to view the Santa Cruz Mountains, which today are home to many reserves managed by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which is turns 50 this year. My mother, the main observer, would no doubt be surprised – and pleased – to see how the land will forever be protected from development.

Midpen was established by local voters in 1972 following a grassroots effort by community members – primarily Palo Alto resident Nonette Hanko, backed by Palo Alto Times editorials led by Jay Thorwaldson. They were concerned about the impact of rapid development and growth in the region. In 1974, Midpen made its first land purchase – 90 acres in what became Foothills Open Space Preserve.

Since then, Midpen has protected a regional greenbelt of over 65,000 acres of public open space and farmland throughout the greater Santa Cruz Mountains region. Midpen also restores the ecological health and function of the natural environment, encourages the sustainable use of agricultural land in coastal San Mateo County, and provides close access to nature for the community through programs, with nearly of 250 miles of trails in 24 free reserves and Open to the public.

“Given this abundance, newer residents of the peninsula may not realize how much intentional and hard work went into founding the open space district,” says Leigh Ann Gessner, Public Affairs Specialist by Midpen.

“When it was preserved, it was not pristine wilderness. Logging and mining had taken place as well as other uses of the land. MidPen’s goal was to restore the land’s natural functions and restore streams damaged by logging. And to create a healthy, wildfire-resistant plant community.

Leigh Ann points to the varied terrain and location of the reserves, from bay front to grasslands to mountains and says that each reserve has a story. ” There is the tafonis (photo below) in Corte Madre, for example. And while the vast majority of old growth forest has been lost, there are a few old growth stands – one is right on the trail at Bear Creek.

Several community events are planned throughout 2022, including an opportunity to explore the San Francisco Bay Trail and participate in the Bayside Family Festival on April 30 at Midpen’s Ravenswood Preserve; a coastal community celebration at Johnston Ranch near Half Moon Bay in the fall, and an opportunity to engage with Midpen’s current projects and partners at an event held at its administrative office in the summer.

Bike and dog rules vary by reservation, as do trail conditions. Midpen’s website has all the details.

Photo from the top of Bear Creek Redwood Preservesecond picture of Ravenswood Reservethird picture of Honda Creek Reserveby Frances Freyberg; cyclist in Russian crest reserve by Karl Gohl; photo of tafoni at El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve by Robb Most.