October 10, 2012
One glorious, contiguous stretch of public parkland along the east side of Highway 1, from just south of Carmel to south of Point Lobos: That's the vision. And a key land transfer currently in negotiation is all that's needed to make it happen.
Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District is working out the terms to acquire Whisler Wilson Ranch, a 317-acre swath currently held by the Big Sur Land Trust. The ranch provides a stunning eagle's-eye view of Point Lobos State Reserve and the Pacific Ocean.
Whisler-Wilson Ranch connects the 4,350-acre, MPRPD-owned Palo Corona Regional Park (east of Highway 1, beginning near Ribera Road south of Carmel) to the 1,312-acre, State Parks-owned Point Lobos Ranch (extending inland from Highway 1 across from Point Lobos). Big Sur Land Trust transferred both undeveloped parcels to the public agencies.
“It’s kind of asking to be one large park," says Lana Weeks, BSLT's director of community stewardship.
Weeks and MPRPD General Manager Jim Sulentich say the terms of the negotiations are confidential. But BSLT's model of acquiring private land, then transferring it to public ownership, is not for profit.
BSLT bought Whisler Wilson in December 2010. Next week, on Oct. 18, the California Coastal Conservancy is considering a $1 million grant to MPRPD to support the acquisition. The land trust agreed to sell MPRPD the whole ranch for its fair-market value of $4 million. The state grant would allow the district to buy portions of the ranch in two phases, giving MPRPD time to procure the remaining $3 million in matching funds its annual allocation of the Habitat Conservation Fund.
The idea is for Whisler-Wilson to provide more public access than Point Lobos Ranch or Palo Corona currently do. From the Coastal Conservancy staff report:
"Once the Whisler Wilson 'link' is acquired, a trailhead parking lot can be built off of Highway 1 on Point Lobos Ranch State Park that will provide an easy way for people to get into the backcountry of these state and regional parks. Two planning processes are already underway that will facilitate the development of these access improvements as soon as the Whisler Wilson property is acquired by the District."