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A 25-acre property in St. Helena first planted with grapes in the 1840s is now guaranteed to remain free of development.

Andy and Betty Beckstoffer have donated a conservation easement for Las Piedras vineyard to the Land Trust of Napa County. That means the land remains private property, but is stripped of development rights.

“We want to make sure that these historic vineyards remain in agriculture in Napa and do that in a way that is lasting, no matter what happens to the ag preserve in the future,” Andy Beckstoffer said in a Land Trust press release.

The property is in southwestern St. Helena, and is visible from Sulphur Springs Avenue near the entrance to The White Barn.

Gen. Mariano Vallejo gave the land as a wedding gift to settler Edward Bale and his wife about 170 years ago. Bale, who also established the Bale grist mill, planted there the first vineyard in what is now the St. Helena appellation.

The Beckstoffers’ easement precludes a home or commercial structure from being built on the property, including a winery. It is the 10th easement donated to the Land Trust by the Beckstoffers, more than any other landowner. The easements total more than 400 acres.

“We very much appreciate the Beckstoffers’ ongoing commitment to protecting the character of Napa through the donations of permanent easements,” Land Trust CEO Doug Parker said in the press release.

In recent months, Napa County has seen a debate over how to best balance winery growth and business needs with agricultural preservation. Andy Beckstoffer noted the tenor of the times.

“We hope this new conservation easement will be a bright light to encourage others in the continuing efforts to preserve agriculture in our valley,” he said.

This marks the first Land Trust agricultural easement within the boundaries of a city. However, the nonprofit group has helped protect urban parks such as Alston Park and Trancas Crossing Park in Napa with conservation easements.

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