Outdoor enthusiasts will soon have another 1,254 acres of local forest land to explore, including a new, shaded route up 4,342-foot-tall Mount St. Helena near Calistoga.
The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District recently received a $200,000 state grant. That is the final piece needed to buy part of the Montesol Ranch in Napa and Lake counties for $1 million.
“It will be a great addition to our park system,” said John Woodbury, general manager of the district.
Escrow could close by year’s end, Woodbury said. Then the district will have to work on a management plan prior to opening the land to the public.
Hikers making the five-mile trip up Mount St. Helena along the existing route in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park spend much of the journey in unshaded areas. They see panoramic views of Napa Valley, but on a hot summer’s day have few respites from the sun.
A planned, alternative route on the Montesol Ranch property to the top of Mount St. Helena would offer a different experience, one dominated by firs, maples, bays and other trees.
“Almost all the way to the peak, you’d be in dense forest,” Woodbury said. “It’s a whole different aspect to Mount St. Helena.”
The Montesol property offers other experiences. It includes Rattlesnake Spring along Highway 29. Drivers often stop there to fill water jugs coming from a pipe in the Caltrans right-of-way.
“There’s always a line of people collecting water from that spring,” Woodbury said.
Troutdale Creek runs through the property. The land includes a long-abandoned trout farm with remnants of old ponds.
In addition, the property borders Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, which includes Mount St. Helena. The Open Space District is working on an agreement with the state to manage the park, just as it already manages Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.
That means the different ownerships of the state park and the Montesol Ranch property would only be a technicality for outdoor enthusiasts. The district plans to run them as one unit.
The open space acquisition is part of a larger Montesol Ranch deal.
More than a year ago, a team effort by the Land Trust of Napa County and The Trust for Public Land secured a 7,260-acre conservation easement for $11.5 million on the Montesol Ranch. The land remained in private ownership and closed to the public, but without development rights.
As part of the deal, The Trust for Public Land had the option of buying 1,254 acres of the protected land for $1 million by the end of 2018 and transferring it to the Open Space District. The new $200,000 grant from the California Habitat Conservation Fund and an $800,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are making the purchase possible.
Montesol Ranch had its start when Horatio Putnam Livermore bought eight acres in 1880 as a retreat for his wife, who had tuberculosis, according to a March 29, 2001 article in The Weekly Calistogan.
The Livermore family includes such notable Californians as Horatio Putnam Livermore, who helped build Folsom Dam; Norman Banks Livermore, Jr., a member of Gov. Ronald Reagan’s cabinet and Bay Area environmentalist Caroline Sealy Livermore, for whom Mount Livermore on Angel Island is named.