Hikers and equestrians can find a new swath of accessible open space in the bucolic eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2,428-acre Rancho Cañada del Oro was the site of walnut orchards at a time when Silicon Valley, then known as the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” was replete with orchards that stretched from Palo Alto to San Jose. A 1999 purchase by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and local agencies permanently protected the property. In April, the Santa Clara Parks District incorporated 943 acres of the ranch into Calero County Park, along with seven miles of new trails. In July, the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority plans to open the remaining 1,485 acres, after crews finish three more miles of trails. The oak woodland and savanna, undulating from 500 to 1,500 feet in elevation, support a diversity of wildlife, including the California tiger salamander and threatened California red-legged frog, species vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation. Serpentine soils support California plantain, the main food-plant of threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly larvae. To find out more, visit www.parkhere.org and www.openspaceauthority.org. POST acquired Rancho Cañada del Oro from the Crummer family, from which POST also purchased the 5,638-acre Cloverdale Coastal Ranch on the San Mateo coast near Pescadero in 1997. In June, the first section of this protected property, a one-mile trail to Wilbur’s Watch, opened to the public. Named after Colburn Wilbur, an open space advocate and former executive director of the Packard Foundation, the overlook has a telescope for viewing migrating gray whales in the spring and late fall. For more information on Wilbur’s Watch, visit www.openspacetrust.org.
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