296 Acres Donated to East Bay Regional Park District

Thrilling park goers who were worried about losing some of their beloved Bay Area landscape, the descendants of the late 19th century farmer George Patterson donated the largest remaining parcel of open space in the Fremont area to the East Bay Regional Parks District on Tuesday.

The $10 million donation of 296 acres is the largest-value donation the East Bay Regional Parks has ever received, according to the park district. The land will extend the eastern boundary of Coyote Hills Regional Park to the Paseo Padre Parkway scenic route near the Dumbarton Bridge, increasing the total acreage of Coyote Hills Park by about 30 percent.

The family who owns the land has an extensive history in the Bay Area, which began when Patterson and his wife, Clara, moved west to California in the 1850s to mine for gold.

The Pattersons wound up making their wealth by farming land in present-day southern Alameda County.  Many Bay Area residents have visited the Pattersons' original family home in Fremont, better known as the Ardenwood Historic Farm, also managed by the park district.

“Thanks to the adventuresome spirit of George Washington Patterson in 1849, four generations of the Patterson family have had the privilege of growing up in a small rural community that has grown into a vibrant area of over 100,000 people,” Wil Patterson of Portolla Valley -- one of the Patterson's heirs -- said in a statement. “We are gratified that this land is now passing from the Patterson family to the good stewardship of the East Bay Regional Park District, for everyone to enjoy.”

Leadership at the East Bay Regional Park District is grateful for the donation.

“This is an amazing example of benevolence,” stated Ayn Wieskamp, president of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors. 

In addition to its historical value, the donated land will help preserve the wetlands, riparian forests and freshwater marshes on the Patterson property. And environmentalists are cheering the fact that the gift will help to insulate the rest of the Coyote Hills Park from industry and residential development.

In an interview on Friday, Assistant General Manager of the Land Division for the East Bay Regional Parks Bob Nisbet said that the Coyote Hills Park and the Patterson family’s land have faced many threats from developers. He said the family’s parcel of land is very valuable and many developers have been interested in building on the land throughout its history.
While the donated land now officially belongs to the East Bay Regional Parks District, Nisbet said it’s too early to say whether or not the land will be used for trails, camping, or other public programs.

The park district, he said,  must first go through a process to decide the best uses of the land in hopes of striking a balance between public involvement and habitat restoration. 

Nisbet said he is confident that this extension of the Coyote Hills Park will be publicly accessible in some form, possibly through educational programs, trails, or agricultural use.  The Parks District is excited about the possibilities for this new park land and invites the public to contribute their ideas during the land use discussion process.

Already, he said, the new land acquisition is benefiting the larger network open spaces in the East Bay. The donated property will facilitate the connection of the Alameda Creek Trail with the  greater Bayview Trail, which will run along the perimeter of the Patterson’s land.

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