San Joaquin County could get its third state park if the California Legislature OKs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $329 billion overall budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The aim is to buy the sprawling and pristine N3 Ranch that covers 50,500 acres or nearly 80 square miles of the Diablo Range in four counties — San Joaquin (9,095 acres), Stanislaus (4,590 acres), Santa Clara (19,935 acres), and Alameda (19,880 acres).
It also contains the highest point in San Joaquin County — Mt. Boardman at 3,619 feet. By comparison Mt. Diablo that sits in Contra Costa County is 3,848 feet.
You can see Mt. Diablo looking slightly to the northwest as you head west on the 120 Bypass past Airport Way. Mt. Boardman is the second highest peak as you look to the southwest from most points in Manteca. The highest peak— by 10 feet — in the area as you look to the southwest is just to the north of Mt. Boardman at 3,629 feet and is within Alameda County.
Within the N3 Ranch just to the south of the Mt. Boardman summit is where the four counties meet.
Newsom has included $20 million from a one-time budget surplus to help purchase the ranch that was put on the market in July 2019 with an asking price of $72 million. It is the largest parcel currently for sale in California.
The $20 million would be wedded with a $30 million commitment from The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Lands.
The N3 Ranch is just over 20 miles as the crow flies from Manteca.
There are perhaps three dozen buildings on the working cattle ranch that includes 14 hunting lodges. The highest point is Eylar Mountain at 4,089 feet. There are also 200 miles of well-maintained dirt roads.
If it were to become a state park, the closest access from the San Joaquin Valley would be via Highway 130 through Del Puerto Canyon out of Patterson to Milnes Road that takes you to Mt. Hamilton. The property is listed with a Livermore address. It is north of the Highway 130 segment that climbs through Del Puerto Canyon
The northern most edge touches the Del Valley Regional Park south of Livermore. It skirts the Sunol Wilderness and the Calaveras Reservoir and runs to the east of Mission Peak near San Jose. It nearly connects with Henry Coe State Park accessed out of Morgan Hill and straddles Milnes Road.
Henry Coe at 89,164 acres is the second largest state park in California behind Anza Borrego Desert State Park at 595,930 acres. The second largest state park is the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area at 50,553 acres — just three acres larger than the N3 Ranch — and is immediately adjacent to Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
N3 Ranch could end up being the state’s fourth largest park at more than double the size of Mt. Diablo State Park at 20,129 acres. It also comes close to connecting with Henry Coe State Park. Also, as a comparison, N3 ranch is eight times larger than the 6,498-acre Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
If the state acquires the ranch it would mean much of the land in the southern Diablo Range stretching from Del Valle Reservoir to near the southern base of the mountains north of Hollister will be protected from development. Between the N3 Ranch, Henry Coe State Park and a series of East Bay Regional Parks most of the area between the Santa Clara Valley and the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be in parks and protected watersheds. It would be significantly more muscular in terms of protection of the various open spaces and regional wilderness parks that team with Mt. Diablo State to create a continuous 50,000 plus acres of wilderness between a point north of Livermore and Walnut Creek.
Botanists consider the ranch a treasure trove. It supports species such as tule elk, black-tail deer, wild pig, turkey, quail, dove, rabbit, ground squirrel, raccoon, coyote bobcat, grey fox, mountain lion, bald eagles, and an endless array of birds from road runners to finches. Countless migrating birds rely on the property. There are bass and catfish in various reservoirs as well as ponds stocked with trout.
"This is a matter of urgent concern because this irreplaceable property is for sale now," Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer said in a statement. "Nonprofit conservation groups have assembled funding commitments that could finance more than half the cost. We need to move on this quickly."
Glazer is one of 17 lawmakers who have been urging Newsom to budget state money to purchase the ranch.
Two Southern California sisters of the fourth generation family that founded the N3 Ranch 85 years ago put the rarely-visited ranch on the real estate market in July.
Cattle still roam the property, which comes with a four-bedroom headquarters, a one-bedroom annex, a bunkhouse, shops, outbuildings, and four cabins for employee housing. The Alameda Creek watershed runs through the property, capturing drinking water for Bay Area residents. T
"It's quite a place," Todd Renfrew, broker and principal owner of Vacaville-based California Outdoor Properties told the Associated Press. "This is a landscape that looks like it did more than a century ago."
There are currently two state parks in San Joaquin County. Caswell Memorial State Park that preserved the largest stand of remaining valley woodlands along the Stanislaus River is south of Manteca and west of Ripon. The other is the Corral Hollow State Vehicle Recreation Area off Corral Hollow Road south of Tracy.
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