Enter "Bohemia Ranch" into Google and you'll find a web site offering nearly 900 acres of prime West County forest for sale — suitable for as many as six homes — all for $6 million.
Now, no such sale will ever happen. By the end of the week, landowner Ted Swindells, a San Francisco venture capitalist, expects to convey the majority of the ranch to LandPaths, a local non-profit dedicated to land stewardship and outdoor access.
It's the culminating move in a complex deal creating Sonoma County's newest private park — one with a year-round waterfall, stunning views and diverse ecology including rare plants like Pennel's bird's-beak.
"In this day and age of shrinking park budgets, this is a huge deal" said Craig Anderson, LandPaths' executive director. "It's a land deal that will echo for a long time to come."
For conservationists the expected exchange also marks the happy ending to a saga that stretches back more than a decade.
In 1996, an Oregon businessman purchased the land near Occidental off Bohemian Highway, which is marked by groves of redwoods and Douglas firs and crossed by a trio of creeks providing habitat for endangered coho salmon.
The property came with state permits to harvest 380 acres of timber, sparking environmentalists' fears of new logging.
Attempts in the late 90s to buy the property for public use included a concert headlined by Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead and husband of Caryl Hart, currently the director of Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Those efforts fell short and eventually the property was purchased by a corporation controlled by Swindells, who allayed environmentalists' deepest fears by installing a conservation easement permanently protecting 90 percent of the ranch.
He also spent millions of dollars cleaning up the property, removing dozens of junked automobiles and shoring up roads and trails wasted by erosion.
But the land remained off-limits to the public and appeared destined for private development after an effort to create a regional park faltered in 2010 as public funding dried up.
Swindells remained open to a deal to keep most of the land in conservancy, provided it included public access.
Plans hit fast-forward in 2010 when he met Anderson, whose organization uses "people power" to help manage thousands of acres of parklands at a fraction of the cost of traditional park systems.
Last year, LandPaths began scheduling volunteer events at the ranch, bringing out scores of volunteers to work on trails, pull invasive species and take on other needed tasks.
The commitment and energy impressed Swindells, a globe-trotting investor who makes it his job to stay abreast of innovation. LandPaths' approach, which mixes planned excursions with volunteerism, struck him as a leap forward considering the times, he said.
"To me, given the fact that the state and the county don't have money, this is the future for land management, to have people who participate and help and for that they have a sense of ownership and for that they have access," Swindells said. "This is a new model that's really at the right time at the right place."
The deal also involved the Sonoma Land Trust, which paid Swindells $1.45 million for a conservation easement that extinguished development rights over 554 acres of the property.
California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it
OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.
Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”
“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”
Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.
Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.
Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”
The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.
California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.
The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”
Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.
“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”
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