Open space near SLO to be conserved

More than 300 individual donations have completed fundraising efforts to conserve 310 acres of land west of San Luis Obispo.

The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County announced this week that it has enough money to buy the hills behind Costco off Los Osos Valley Road. It will become the Froom Ranch Open Space and will be added to the city’s greenbelt.

When combined with the adjacent Irish Hills Natural Reserve, the city’s western greenbelt will grow to more than 1,000 acres. Neil Havlik, San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager, said he hopes to complete the purchase by July and open the area to the public in early fall after a half-mile connector trail is built on the property.

Raising the $780,000 to purchase the property from Phyllis Madonna involved a complex effort of large and small donations. The city used Measure Y sales taxes, and The Nature Conservancy and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund provided the bulk of the money.

However, the effort still fell $63,000 short, which had to be made up by smaller donations. Two separate $10,000 donations came from Donald and Mary Smith of San Luis Obispo and the solar energy company SunPower Corp., which is one of two companies that have applied to build large-scale photovoltaic plants in the Carrizo Plain.

The number of smaller donors was also remarkable, said Wende David, the conservancy’s development director. These donations ranged from as little as $2 to 16 donations of more than $1,000, as well as $337 from a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen.

The most common smaller donation was in the $100 range, with 111 donations. Donors of $100 or more received a copy of a recently published wildflower guidebook for the San Luis Obispo area.

“Froom Ranch was an exciting campaign because open space is close to the hearts of local people; it is part of our way of life,” David said.

Froom Ranch will offer outdoor enthusiasts several recreational opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking and wildlife viewing. It consists of grasslands, oak woodlands and chaparral.