Mindego Hill, a small mountain that is a major geologic landmark west of Skyline Boulevard above Palo Alto, has been acquired by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in a landmark $28.5 million purchase.
The acquisition of the 1,047-acre property "is a dream come true," POST Director Audrey Rust declared in an official announcement Thursday (Oct. 11).
"We're really excited. It's been on the top of our list for nearly 30 years, in the top five of our priorities" for acquisition, Rust noted exuberantly in an earlier interview with the Weekly.
The hill will eventually become part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) if POST can raise funds to complete the $28.5 million purchase, Rust said preceding the close of the deal Wednesday.
The land for more than a half century has been owned by the True family, and in recent years has been occupied by Chris True, himself a well-known and respected feature of the La Honda area community, and his wife, Veronica, a third-generation resident of the La Honda/Pescadero area. An estranged brother, Ramon, will share in the proceeds of the sale.
Chris True sports a Puritan-style chin beard and owns a small herd of white Brahmin cattle, in addition to Angus and a mix of two breeds used for rodeo bull-riding. He conducts "Cow-Pie Bingo" contests to benefit community services in the area, including an upcoming contest at Palo Alto High School and a recent contest at Menlo-Atherton.
He and his wife will lease the ranch back from POST for a year, during which time they plan to move to Idaho, True told the Weekly.
The acquisition will prevent the land from a potential subdivision or more likely acquisition by a single wealthy owner who would keep it closed to public access, Rust said.
"We probably paid more than the appraised value," she said.
But the real value of the land is strategic, she added. In addition to its rich diversity of plants, animals and habitat, it has two small lakes -- some might call them large ponds -- and it backs up against MROSD's Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve at the corner of Alpine and Skyline.
There is only a relatively short gap between the property and Pescadero Creek Park to the west, Rust noted, adding that it is in a key location within about 33,000 acres of already-protected open-space lands.
The land was purchased in 1954 by the late Admiral Arnold True of World War II fame and his wife, Corinne, who were Quakers and good friends of the late Frank and Josephine Duveneck, founders of the Hidden Villa ranch and youth camp in Los Altos Hills. Admiral True, who came out against the Vietnam War years ago, died in 1979. Corinne died in 2006.
They also were supporters of the Committee for Green Foothills and friends of the late Lois Hogle, a co-founder of the environmentalist group.
While Corinne had long desired the property to be preserved as open space, the current negotiations were begun about a year ago, Rust said.
The hill was originally named after Juan Mindego, a Basque farmer who established a homestead and cattle ranch on the hill in 1859.
The closing of the purchase deal marks the beginning of a major fundraising campaign that has a $29.4 million goal, to provide some extra funds to help open the land to the public and preserve its habitat features.
The "GoMindego" campaign already has a Web site (http://www.gomindego.org ) and a $2.3 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Rust said informal conversations have been held with MROSD officials. The public agency, created by voters in 1972, is expected to acquire the land from POST for about $15 million. Another $7.5 million is expected from grants and other public-funding sources, she said. POST was created as a private nonprofit spinoff of MROSD in 1977.
The fundraising goal is $6.9 million from individuals, foundations and other private sources, Rust said.
"The protection of Mindego Hill is the capstone of achievement of POST's 30th anniversary as a land trust, which we are celebrating this year," Rust said. "We're simply overjoyed that this magnificant part of the Peninsula will be preserved for generations of visitors to experience, explore and enjoy at last."