The 348-acre Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve will crease eight times its current size


By Andrea Mackenzie

Andrea MacKenzie

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, along with partners Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency and the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), recently worked together to purchase one of the county’s largest remaining working ranches, the 1,861-acre Tilton Ranch. Permanently protecting such a large natural and working landscape so close to our urban areas is so important for nature and people.

With this purchase, our 348-acre Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, which is frequently visited by South Valley residents, is about to increase eight times its current size, expanding opportunities for residents to connect with nature.

When ownership of the property is transferred to the Open Space Authority next year, we will coordinate with the Valley Habitat Agency and Santa Clara County Parks on a three- to five-year master planning process to expand the preserve. This includes identifying public access opportunities that are compatible with the property’s natural, agricultural, and cultural values. With Tilton’s beautiful sweeping views of the valley, we envision trails that will connect to the preserve and eventually to the 937-acre North Coyote Valley Conservation Area, creating a network of regional trails for all to enjoy.

The OSA and its conservation partners have now protected a horseshoe of more than 12,000 acres in the greater Coyote Valley, spanning both sides of U.S. 101 from Coyote Ridge to the Santa Cruz Mountains. These critical lands support wildlife movement, protect our water resources, and buffer the South Valley’s urban areas from the effects of more frequent and intensive floods and wildfires like the ones our region saw this year.

The Coyote Valley and its surrounding hillsides are incredibly important for wildlife and habitat conservation. A 2017 Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage report identifies the valley floor as a linkage that allows animals to travel from the Santa Cruz Mountains in the west, to the Diablo Range in the east, and to the Gabilan Range to the south. Tilton Ranch is the headwaters of Fisher Creek which flows north to Laguna Seca and into San Francisco Bay, where wildlife travel, making it critical for our habitat, water quality protection, and restoration efforts.

Tilton Ranch has played an important role in South Valley’s agricultural heritage and local history. The family has operated the ranch since 1917, grazing the land with cattle and dry farming for hay and grain. The ranch also sits on ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, who stewarded the land for millennia and whose descendants, members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, still reside in our region today.

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It took a strong coalition of partners to make the $18-million purchase possible, with funding from the OSA’s Measure Q, a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the California Wildlife Conservation Board and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Habitat Agency, POST, Santa Clara County Parks, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation completed the purchase. The protection of Tilton Ranch advances our vision to create a protected and restored open space greenbelt following Fisher Creek, from the Morgan Hill city limits to San Jose. We look forward to stewarding this important landscape for all its conservation and public benefits and continuing the family’s ranching legacy.

Join us as we start to imagine the future of this historical ranch. Sign up for educational events, volunteer to help us work on the land, and follow our blog to stay up to date on work at Tilton Ranch. Learn more at www.openspaceauthority.org.

Andrea Mackenzie is the Open Space Authority general manager.

Robert Airoldi