Ranch added to San Luis Obispo’s open space inventory

A 189-acre family ranch that includes a portion of Cerro Romualdo will be added to San Luis Obispo’s open space inventory.

The City Council on Tuesday approved spending $107,500 from the city’s open space fund to complete the purchase of a conservation easement on the O’Connor Ranch between O’Connor Way and Camp San Luis Obispo.

The bulk of the money for the $949,000 easement came from a U.S. Department of Defense fund used to eliminate conflicting land uses around National Guard installations such as Camp San Luis Obispo.

Joseph and Mary Lindsey will continue to own the land and operate it as a family ranch. However, they relinquish development rights on the property. The deal also includes provisions for limited public access via docent-led hikes, said Neil Havlik, San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager.

The deal was negotiated by the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. With all the funding in place, the group hopes to finalize the deal early next year, said Bob Hill, the group’s conservation director.

The scenic property contains the oak woodlands and boulder fields commonly associated with the Morros, the chain of volcanic peaks that runs between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Although the property does not contain the peak of the 1,307-foot Cerro Romualdo, it contains the peak’s southeastern shoulder, Hill said.

The conservation easement allows four docent-led hikes a year on the property, Hill said. Details of those hikes should be known early next year.

Conservation of the O’Connor Ranch is the latest success of a partnership between the city, the Land Conservancy and the National Guard, Havlik said. The National Guard’s Army Compatible Use Buffer program has money available for land conservation deals that eliminate housing development and other uses on land surrounding National Guard facilities that might conflict with training and other base activities.

In recent years, the National Guard fund has been used to conserve two parcels in the Stenner Creek area above Cal Poly. One was a conservation easement on the 838-acre Stenner Ranch, and the other was the purchase of a 315-acre railroad parcel now open to the public.

“Ours is one of the best examples of the use of this fund in the country,” Havlik said.

Acquiring conservation easements on undeveloped property is also part of the city’s greenbelt program, which creates a network of open space around the city and prevents sprawl.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.