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Sonoma Land Trust buys historic McCormick Ranch for open space

By November 24, 2019 No Comments
The sprawling McCormick Ranch property was settled in 1844. Family heirs are transferring the land to the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District when the sale closes next year. (Photos courtesy of Sonoma Land Trust)

Sonoma Land Trust has signed an agreement to purchase a historic 654-acre ranch that spans a ridge between Napa and Sonoma counties in the southern Mayacamas Mountains for $14.5 million.

Molly and John McCormick are pictured with their children Chalmers, Hugh and John in this undated image.

When the purchase closes in November 2020, a portion of the ranch in Sonoma County will be added to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, and the ranch land in Napa County will be owned by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District.

“From scenic vistas to new hiking opportunities, clean water, climate adaptation and managing the land to reduce wildfire risks, McCormick Ranch has it all,” John McCaull, Sonoma Land Trust’s acquisition manager for the Sonoma Valley, said in a news release.

The McCormick family owned the land for 175 years since it was settled in 1844. Eventually 1,000 acres were sold to the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District to expand Sugarloaf Ridge State Park that is now known as the McCormick Addition.

Family descendants began considering a possible conservation sale of the ranch after 2015 to protect the land from development and contacted Sonoma Land Trust.

John McCormick rides his wagon through the McCormick Ranch property in this undated image.

The land was zoned for up to eight estate homes and the area has considerable vineyard coverage. There would be no public access if the land was converted to residential or agricultural use, according to the Sonoma Land Trust.

The 654 acres that make up the McCormick Ranch also are the center of the Marin Coast-Blue Ridge Critical Linkage, an 85-mile wildlife corridor that stretches from Point Reyes to the Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument. It is habitat for black bear and mountain lions, and contains oak woodland and forest, chaparral and grassland.

The ranch was critical to Cal Fire during the Nuns Fire in 2017, according to the Sonoma Land Trust. A 2,500-foot-high area was used to create a fire break and staging area that prevented the fire from crossing into Napa County and advancing to St. Helena.

Sonoma Land Trust has commitments for $12.75 million to purchase the land and plans to raise an additional $1.75 million by next year.