State resource officials are requiring that a $1 million endowment be established before 2,400 acres can be added to Montaña de Oro State Park, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill said.
One of the sticking points in completing the deal to conserve the Wild Cherry Canyon property in the Irish Hills behind Avila Beach is the apparent contradiction of adding land to the state park system while budget shortfalls are threatening to close some existing parks.
The endowment would cover California’s cost to manage and operate the addition until the state budgets enough money to do so. Hill said he is very optimistic the deal will be successful.
“If a $1 million endowment is what is needed to make this happen, it’s done,” he said during a meeting with The Tribune Editorial Board last week.
Local conservation activist Kara Blakeslee said her group, the American Land Conservancy, or ALC, is making progress in raising money.
“It’s a daunting task, but because failure is no option, we are diving in,” she said.
The Hind Foundation, headed by local philanthropist Greg Hind, has pledged $188,000 and is asking that the community match that amount, Blakeslee said.
“This is in addition to the $150,000 grant he already provided some time ago towards the land acquisition,” she said.
Hind was out of town and could not be reached to comment. Details of ALC’s fundraising campaign will be announced soon, Blakeslee said.
Hill described the Wild Cherry Canyon project as the most significant land conservation deal in the county since the historic Hearst Ranch conservation agreement of 2005. Completing the deal would have the added benefit of allowing an alternate access route to be created to Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, Hill said.
The conservancy, the state Resources Agency and PG&E, which owns the land, are working to finalize the $21 million deal, which must be completed by September.