January 26, 2004
Thanks to an innovative public-private partnership, a 960-acre
ranch that features pristine blue oak woodlands, a scenic creek and
beautiful waterfall, and the home of abundant wildlife will now
belong to Placer County residents.
Spears Ranch, located in the Garden Bar area of the foothills
between the cities of Lincoln and Auburn, has been purchased by the
county with major support from the Trust for Public Lands, the
Sierra Business Council and the State of California as part of the
County's unique Placer Legacy project.
Spears Ranch will become a county-owned passive park, a place
where residents can walk, fish, ride horses, jog, take photos and
enjoy outdoor activities. The site will also provide a unique
opportunity to blend land conservation and habitat restoration,
ranching as well as passive recreational uses.
Robert Weygandt, a member of the Placer County Board of
Supervisors, said Spears Ranch is the "flagship" of Placer Legacy.
He said it is both an example of the beauty and natural resources
the county hopes to preserve, and a model of a public-private
partnership the county must replicate to be successful in saving
more open space.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land
conservation organization, negotiated the purchase of the ranch in
2000 from the Spears family, and in December 2003 conveyed the
ranch to Placer County for permanent public protection. Founded in
1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide,
including more than 50,000 acres of critical watershed, recreation,
and forest lands in the Sierra Nevada.
The $3.5 million purchase was made possible through local,
state, and federal funding and private philanthropy. The bulk of
the funding, $2,220,934, came from the county's Placer Legacy Open
Space Trust Fund, which includes public funds set aside over the
last three years, and donations from the public and county
The California Department of Parks and Recreation provided more
than $204,000 from California's portion of the federal Land and
Water Conservation Fund, and $400,000 from the Riparian and
Riverine Habitat Grant Program of the 2000 Park Bond Act. The
California Resources Agency provided $250,000 from the Sierra
Nevada-Cascade Grant Program, also funded through the
voter-approved 2000 Park Bond Act.
The Sierra Business Council provided $500,000 for the purchase
through a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's
Conserving California Landscapes Initiative (CCLI).
The CCLI grant is part of the Packard Foundation's contribution
of $175 million statewide to help conserve 342,000 acres of
California's pristine landscapes. The Packard Foundation's support
was sought and obtained by the Sierra Business Council. SBC has
been a leading non-profit in creating and supporting the Placer
Legacy project since its beginning.
"Spears Ranch is a piece of what Placer County has looked like
for 10,000 years, and we will now be preserving it forever," said
Supervisor Weygandt. "It is in the vision of a Placer County
national park. The ranch includes examples of Placer County's
spectacular natural resources and amazing habitat in a beautiful
and pristine setting.
"It is the realization of a dream we've had and, I hope, an
inspiration to make more open space protection possible," Weygandt
"The protection of Spears Ranch is key to protecting critical
wildlife habitat and adding to public open space in the Sierra
Nevada foothills," said Reed Holderman, Executive Director of the
Trust of Public Land-California.
"It is only through a tremendous team effort involving Placer
County, the State of California, the Sierra Business Council, the
David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Spears family that this
remarkable landscape has been protected for future generations," he
"This is a landmark purchase, not just for Placer County, but
also for the Sierra Nevada," said Jim Sayer, President of the
Sierra Business Council. "Placer Legacy is a model for how to
protect important natural assets and the local quality of life in
the Sierra's fastest growing area. Our business members strongly
believe that a successful economy depends upon a healthy
"We are very proud that the State Resources Agency and
California State Parks participated in this creative public private
partnership," said Mike Chrisman, California Secretary for
Resources. We are protecting this beautiful property in Placer
County to benefit our environment and for all Californians."
Spears Ranch will open to the public after the county completes
a park plan and some capital improvements, hopefully next year.
"We are deeply indebted to all the partners and of course the
Spears family who made this wonderful gift to Placer County
residents possible," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriet
White. "Fifty years from now, as our County continues to grow, our
residents will celebrate the wisdom of the partners who recognized
the importance of preserving this beautiful open space."
The Placer County Board of Supervisors created the Placer Legacy
program to conserve open space, and has strongly supported it since
its inception in 2000.
The Spears Ranch is the latest property protected through Placer
Legacy with its partners, including portions of the Shallenberger
Ridge overlooking Donner Lake, a trailhead and open space
conservation easement at Moody Ridge, and agricultural conservation
easements including Aitken Ranch and the Grey family property in
Other acquisitions are being pursued, including land along the
south fork of the Yuba River and additional land in the Garden Bar
area. Placer Legacy works with willing sellers and is voluntary.