The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is considering purchasing a portion of the Johnston Ranch property south of Half Moon Bay to preserve and potentially open up public access to the 644-acre grasslands.

The property, which totals 868 acres and is currently owned by nonprofit Peninsula Open Space Trust, would continue to be used for grazing through MROSD’s conservation grazing program and would be joined with the Miramontes Ridge Open Space Preserve to be preserved in perpetuity. Today, the Miramontes preserve is not open to public access, but Public Affairs Specialist Leigh Ann Gessner said MROSD hopes to open it in the future.

“It really creates some exciting future opportunities for trail connections,” Gessner said.

If the purchase goes through, POST and MROSD plan to divide the parcel in two. POST Director of Land Transactions Benjamin Wright said the nonprofit plans to sell the lower slice of the land, totaling 224 acres, to the Giusti family, which has been farming on it for generations. Wright said the land purchase would include a conservation easement, which would prevent the new owners from developing it.

“It may look very much the same,” Wright said. “That’s really the goal; to preserve the property the way it's been known for all these years just outside the city limits here.”

In between the two slices of the property is the historic Johnston House, which is owned by the city of Half Moon Bay. That space would remain, and MROSD hopes to work with the city to create trail connections from the California Coastal Trail up to the Miramontes preserve.

Gessner said the land deals play to the two groups’ strengths, with MROSD able to preserve and open to public access to the hills while managing it through grazing. Meanwhile, POST, which is more suited to working with local farmers, can ensure the lower portion never gets developed. After a project to build luxury condos was defeated and POST stepped in to buy the land in 1999 and 2001, Gessner said it’s a relief to know that the land, right on the border of the city of Half Moon Bay, will remain open space.

Last week, an MROSD committee met and voted to bring the decision to purchase the property to a full board vote at an Oct. 13 meeting.

Sarah Wright is the deputy editor for the Review. She reports on unincorporated San Mateo County and local schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and has worked in policy and communications in Washington, D.C.

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