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November 4, 2009 > East Bay Regional Parks acquires Tyler Ranch

East Bay Regional Parks acquires Tyler Ranch

Submitted By Shelly Lewis

While celebrating one milestone in its history, East Bay Regional Park District has just achieved another.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the park district's establishment in 1934. In action taken on Tuesday, Oct. 20, the park district board of directors authorized a land acquisition that will take the district over the 100,000-acre mark.

Board members agreed unanimously to purchase 1,156 acres of the Tyler Ranch, located adjacent to Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park near the town of Sunol.

The property extends for almost 3 1/2 miles along Sunol Ridge, rising nearly 2,000 feet from Niles Canyon below. It consists of steep, heavily vegetated slopes, with open grasslands and rock outcrops on the ridge tops. The diversity of habitat makes for abundant wildlife, including raptors such as golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and prairie falcons. Views from the ridge tops are spectacular.

"Reaching the 100,000-acre milestone is especially appropriate on the park district's 75th anniversary," said park district general manager Pat O'Brien. "It carries forward the vision of the district's founders, whose goal was to preserve as much as possible of the East Bay's beautiful wildlands for future generations."

The East Bay Regional Park District was established 75 years ago when on November 6, 1934, voters in nine Alameda County cities agreed to a nickel tax on every $100 worth of property. This was the first time in the nation's history where a park district was established as a special district on a regional basis. In its 75 year history, the East Bay Regional Park District has grown to be the largest regional park district in the nation. It annexed most of Contra Costa County in 1964, and the remainder of that county in 1981, and now serves 2.1 million residents in Alameda and Contra Costa County.

"Tyler Ranch is a great addition to the district," said park district board member, Ayn Wieskamp, whose ward includes Pleasanton and Sunol. "Like our original parks of Tilden, Sibley, and Redwood, it preserves critical wildlife habitat, retains the aesthetic quality of the region, and provides future recreational opportunities."

The property had been owned since the 1940s by the Tyler family. In September of 1997, the Tyler family sold 1,156 acres of their ranch to the Priem Family Foundation for $5,197,500 and the remaining 320 acres to the park district for $1.44 million. The total sale price, $6,637,500, was well below the ranch's appraised fair market value.

Purchase of the Tyler Ranch was made possible through generous support from the Priem Family Foundation, a private, tax-exempt organization created in part for the purpose of preserving open space in the greater East Bay.

The Priem Family Foundation agreed to hold its 1,156 acres for up to three years, in order to allow the park district time to obtain funds to complete the purchase. Now, the foundation will sell its 1,156 acres to the park district for $3,468,000, which constitutes a de facto donation to the park district of $1,729,500.

The park district has secured funding from several sources to complete the transaction, most notably a $1 million grant from the Alameda County Altamont Landfill Open Space Fund. In addition, the park district has received a $300,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation Habitat Conservation Fund. And a $10,000 grant from the Frederick E. and Anne R. Barstow Fund, conveyed through the East Bay Community Foundation, will help with the purchase. The balance of the funding will come from Measure WW, the open space bond issue approved by voters in 2008, and from interest accrued from Measure AA, the original open space bonds approved back in 1988.

With the acquisition of the Tyler Ranch property, the park district will comprise 65 public parklands totaling 100,331 throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

Tyler Ranch will be placed in land bank status pending cleanup, park planning, trail and signage work, and other measures to make it safe for opening to the public.


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