The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) is slated to purchase 644 acres of the 868-acre Johnston Ranch Property on the southern edge of Half Moon Bay.
The coastal Johnston Ranch Property property is made up of rolling grassy hills, coastal scrub, the Arroyo Leon Creek corridor along with agricultural lands. On Wednesday, Midpen’s board of directors approved the purchase of the 644 acres of the property from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) for $4.8 million. POST, which had purchased the Johnston Ranch Property in two transactions in 1999 and 2001 for the purposes of preservation, will retain ownership of 224 acres of agricultural lands that have been farmed by the Guisti family for decades. POST intends to eventually sell the agricultural portion to the farmer, subject to a conservation easement protecting it from future development.
Midpen will manage the other 644 acres of the property as part of its adjacent Miramontes Ridge Open Space Preserve beginning in December 2021. The management of the property will include ranger patrol, environmental restoration and wildland fire resiliency work, and possibly development of a new easy-access loop trail near the Johnston House for ecologically sensitive recreation.
“The City of Half Moon Bay will continue to own the historic New England saltbox-style
Johnston House located on the property,” according to Midpen. “Visible from Highway 1 and a landmark to many who live on or visit the coast, it is open to the public for docent-led tours. The City of Half Moon Bay is planning for a pedestrian and bike trail that will connect downtown Half Moon Bay with the Johnston House along Higgins Canyon Road, utilizing a series of easements that the City accommodated.”
Prior to being purchased by POST for preservation, the Johnston Ranch Property had been slated for a golf course with luxury homes, according to Midpen.
“This acquisition is remarkable for our community and the entire Coastside, ensuring beautiful
open space and farmland will forever be protected directly adjacent to our city,” Half Moon
Bay Mayor Robert Brownstone said. “Connecting people to open space is something all
three agencies strongly support, and our future trail connection from downtown to the
Johnston House will help achieve that. The generations to come will appreciate that action
was taken today to safeguard this irreplaceable natural resource.”
Midpen’s acquisition will be funded by voter-approved Measure AA along with $700,000 in grants from the Coastal Conservancy and California State Parks’ Habitat Conservation Fund.
Photo of Johnston Ranch Upland, looking at Pillar Point Harbor in late summer, courtesy of Midpen.