$5 million Bruin Ranch open-space funding wins Placer supes support

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Applause greeted a Placer County Board of Supervisors decision Tuesday to back preservation of 1,773 acres of wildland north of Auburn with $5 million in funding. About 20 supporters representing the Placer Land Trust and other land preservation organizations cheered a decision to spend funds dedicated for open space purchases on the oak-studded Bruin Ranch. The county has been holding onto the funding for several years. The $5 million will pay for an open-space easement on 1,773 acres that will be owned by the Placer Land Trust. A total of $4 million will come from the county’s open space fund while the other $1 million is from the county’s tree mitigation trust fund. “There is no question that this is a lot of money but the time is absolutely right for pricing,” Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said. For cost-conscious supervisors, the 5-0 decision was a matter of passing a litmus test that fell on where the money was coming from and what is considered the recreational potential that could be developed from the expenditure. Supervisor Kirk Uhler said that during good economic times, the board set aside funding for open space. But with the recent drop in revenue, funding had not taken place over the past two years. Considering the funding source and the possibility of public access, he supported the expenditure. “We’re not talking about money from the general fund,” Uhler said. “We’re providing money set aside by past boards for this opportunity.” The property has road and trail links to nearby Hidden Falls Regional Park through other preserved properties and fronts nearly 3 miles of the Bear River. It is being sold for $9.5 million by the Harvego family of Sacramento. The California Wildlife Conservation Board approved $4.5 million in grant funding in November for the purchase of the land. Mary Dietrich, Facility Services Department assistant director, said the property was appraised at $9.5 million “fair market value” last year. Trail connectivity between the ranch and Hidden Falls isn’t in any short-range plans but is a possibility in the future, she said. Loren Clark, assistant director of the county’s Community Development Resource Agency, said the preservation of the property through an open-space easement could provide the county credits in advance of completion of its western Placer conservation plan. The preserved land would help the county achieve open-space protection goals state and federal governments are requiring. Supervisor Robert Weygandt called the decision “a historic moment.” “This is consistent with the long-term vision of our county,” he said. “One hundred years from now, when people look back, I think they’re going to be pleased.”