Late last week, I was standing in the barn at the Santa Margarita Ranch. The structure was built to actually protect what is left of the Asistencia, which was a sub-mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. At the same time, I was looking across the historic Santa Margarita Ranch at the hills of the Eagle Ranch, which bump up right against Atascadero.
Residential development is pending for the Eagle Ranch, but as of now more than 3,000 acres of this pristine piece of property are forever safe from development.
The gathering at the historic barn was held to officially announce that Eagle Ranch and The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County had entered into an agricultural easement that protects some 3,200 acres of the ranch. It is the largest conservation easement gift in the history of The Land Conservancy, according to Kaila Dettman, executive director of the conservancy.
One of the Eagle Ranch owners, Greg Smith, told a small crowd that the agreement has been more than 10 years in the making. He said a portion of the Eagle Ranch currently supports a “modest herd” of cattle and “will remain a working cattle ranch into the foreseeable future.”
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A video of the property shows a man-made lake created in the 1970s for agricultural uses on the ranch, a number of creeks and even a waterfall. Fortunately, this land will never see development or a use beyond agricultural practices. The Eagle Ranch will remain in private ownership, but The Land Conservancy will be permitted to host one docent-led hike on the property a year.
A more northern portion of the Eagle Ranch, once owned by Baron Von Schroeder, is the subject of proposed residential development. The property contains a number of original Colony lots as surveyed by Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis. Water to the property will be provided by Atascadero Mutual Water Co. Hearings on the potential development of this portion of the ranch will more than likely be held this summer.
Both the Smith brothers recalled spending summer vacations and other times at the ranch.
I always wanted to visit the ranch. Ranch manager Meredith Gates said he’d give me a personal tour, but we just never seemed to get it done.
Portions of the Eagle Ranch bump up against the newly established Three Bridges Oak Preserve, where hiking trails are currently being developed.
This newest conservation easement is good news for all of us who love this county and don’t want to see it developed with houses on every hillside.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.