Before and After photos of Alma Cultural Landscape

Alma Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation

Alma Cultural Landscape

Located in Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve, the Alma Cultural Landscape was a dilapidated historic site that exhibited remnants of many layers of past human use, including the 19th-century logging boom, the vast rural estates of early 20th-century industry leaders and the first Jesuit college of theology on the west coast. Included as part of the Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve Plan, the rehabilitation project sought to develop the site for safe public enjoyment in a manner that is fiscally sustainable and that highlights its historic significance.

On October 15, the landscape was opened for public access.

Following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes, Midpen took the following rehabilitation actions:

  • Hazardous materials abatement, site clean-up and the demolition of select non-historic structures
  • Historic 1934 library and 1909 chapel "mothballing" (sealing and ventilation), restoration of the building exteriors, and stabilization of the chapel porch for public access
  • Rehabilitation and reconstruction of historic terracing and landscape forms in a manner that restores historic circulation patterns and provides accessible routes for persons with mobility or physical disabilities
  • Landscaping with native species
  • Interpretative signage and programming, benches and picnic tables
  • Safety railings, patrol routes and emergency vehicle turnaround
a brick stairway leading up to restored buildings
Rehabilitated Alma Cultural Landscape, Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve (Midpen Staff)

The land along the ridgeline has been deeply admired and repeatedly altered—by wealthy estate owners beginning in the 1850s, then by the Jesuits of Alma College from 1934 until the 1950s. Midpen invites you to form your own connection with this landscape as you explore carefully-rehabilitated layers of past lives.

Public Access, Education, and Outreach
Public Access
illustration of a bird in flight next to the letters MAA
Measure AA

Goals and Objectives

  • Include protection of cultural resources, or mitigation for alteration and/or removal of such resources
    • Study alternatives for protecting key structures and features
    • Use best management practices for preservation of all structures and cultural landscapes
  • Conform with National Park Service guidelines to rehabilitate cultural landscapes
    • Ensure that restore/reuse/remove alternatives retain the distinctive features and spatial relationships of the potentially historic district
    • Preserve the historic character of the property
    • Preserve historic structures that retain integrity and significance to the cultural landscape
  • Balance Midpen's mission with potential improvements and programs

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October 2022Completion of construction and opening to public access.
September 2021Construction begins
July 28, 2021Public Meeting: Board of directors approved contracting George Bianchi Construction, Inc., to complete the Alma Cultural  Landscape Rehabilitation Project
June 09, 2021Public Meeting: Board of directors approved a contract  amendment with Coastwide Environmental Technologies, Inc. to complete demolition of an additional non-historic structure.
January 27, 2021Public Meeting: Board of directors rejected all bids for Phase II improvements.
February 26, 2020Public Meeting: Board of directors approved the removal of select dilapidated non-historic structures.
January 25, 2017Public Meeting: The Alma College Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation Plan was approved by the Board as part of the larger Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve Plan.
2015 - 2016Alma College Site Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation Plan developed by Midpen staff and reviewed by board on multiple occasions.
Spring 2015Rehabilitation of the Alma College site was guided by committee and public input at three meetings of the Planning and Natural Resources Committee.


Funded by Measure AA 2014 Open Space Bond


This project is supported by Measure AA, a 30-year, $300 million bond passed by local voters in 2014 to support Midpen’s community-created Vision Plan top 25 priority projects.

Additional Funding

Identifying potential partnerships and funding opportunities to help restore the site features is integral to the rehabilitation plan. In 2020, the County of Santa Clara’s Historic Grant Program awarded Midpen $200,000 to help preserve the historic structures.