Cowell Ranch Becomes CA State Park

BRENTWOOD, CA, 11/21/02 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL), and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) announced today TPL’s purchase of the nearly 4,000-acre Cowell Ranch from the S.H. Cowell Foundation and its conveyance to DPR as California’s newest state park. Located in eastern Contra Costa County in the shadow of Mount Diablo, the ranch will provide tremendous recreational opportunities for residents in one of the fastest growing areas of the state.

After several years of community discussion and debate, TPL completed the $13-million deal to purchase and preserve the ranch that was previously earmarked for urban development. “We are very grateful to our funding partners including the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Wildlife Conservancy Board, CalTrans, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District,” says Reed Holderman, executive director of the Trust for Public Land-California, a San Francisco-based non-profit land conservation organization.

“We could not have completed this purchase without the support of Senator Tom Torkalson, Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, the John Marsh Historic Trust, Save Mount Diablo, the Greenbelt Alliance, and our own private donors,” added Holderman.

“This is a natural legacy of rolling, grassy hills with majestic oaks and seasonal streams that we can pass on to future generations. I’m proud the Davis Administration was able to save this magnificent open space,” added Mary Nichols, California Secretary for Resources.

Stellar political support came from state Assemblymember Joe Canciamilla (then county supervisor), and state Senator Tom Torlakson (then state assemblymember). Through the efforts of Canciamilla and Torkalson, voters agreed to relocate the urban limit line to exclude nearly all of Cowell Ranch. The Cowell Foundation withdrew its development plans and TPL optioned the property in 2000. Working on a two-year deadline, TPL was able to secure financial commitments from the California Coastal Conservancy, Caltrans, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Wildlife Conservation Board, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“This is terrific news for the people of Contra Costa County and all of California,” said Torlakson, (D-Antioch). “This acquisition and park plan required a strong community effort and cooperation among elected officials, government agencies and private groups. A new park, anchored by the new historic John Marsh Home, can provide recreational, historic and cultural opportunities.”

“I am so pleased that after six years of hard work, this acquisition has finally come to fruition,” stated Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla. “I am also proud that in my first term in the California Legislature I helped secure $3 million as part of last years budget process which was intrumental in completing the acquisition and preservation of over 3,900 acres of valuable open space.

” Cowell Ranch was part of the initial bequest to the Foundation from the Cowell family and is one of the foundation’s few remaining real estate holdings. Disposing of this non-income property increases the foundation’s liquid assets, which in turn will directly increase the foundation’s ability to make grants throughout northern California for youth, families, affordable housing and public education.

“We are delighted to see the Cowell Ranch protected and remain a vital part of the California’s natural heritage,” said Mary S. Metz, president of the S.H. Cowell Foundation. “The ranch was the destination of the earliest pioneers and was the homestead of John Marsh, a powerful force in Calfiornia’s most dynamic period of history. Marh’s spectacular stone house still stands and when restored will be a centerpiece of the new State Park,” added Metz.

The ranch’s oak-studded rolling hills, wetlands, streams and vernal pools are home to many threatened and endangered species including red-legged frogs, fairy shrimp, tiger salamanders and San Joaquin kit fox. The protection of the ranch helps to create a wildlife corridor that would encompass about 81,000 acres from the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Watershed, extending west through Morgan Territory and Mt. Diablo State Park to Walnut Creeks Shell Ridge.

The Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people as parks, gardens, playgrounds and wilderness. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide. TPL has protected more than 20,000 acres in the San Francisco Bay Area where it was formed 30 years ago to protection the Marin Headlands from development.