In the 1990s, as development pressure threatened the Coastside’s scenic beauty, rural character and agricultural heritage, Coastsiders expressed their support for extending the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District boundaries to include the San Mateo County Coastside. In 2004, Midpen's boundaries expanded to include the San Mateo County coast from Montara to the San Mateo Santa Cruz county line. The area is called Midpen's Coastside Protection Area and has a unique mission statement associated with it. Midpen's Coastside Protection Area Service Plan, which took more than seven years to develop in collaboration with Coastside residents and the agricultural community, guides our work in the region.
To date, Midpen has protected more than 19,000 acres of natural and agricultural lands that contribute to the area’s rural identity, natural beauty and quality of life.
Midpen worked with multiple stakeholders to develop the Coastside Protection Area Service Plan. Through the plan, Midpen is committed to:
- Protecting watershed integrity and water quality
- Protecting sensitive resources such as habitats for special-status species
- Providing key links to existing Midpen and other public open space and park lands
- Providing opportunities for low-intensity recreation
- Supporting development of an integrated regional trail system coordinated with the San Mateo County Trails Plan
- Providing opportunities for scientific research, resource conservation demonstration projects, outdoor environmental education programs, and interpretive programs
- Preserving existing and potential agricultural operations in order to keep the maximum amount of prime agricultural land and other lands suitable for agriculture in agricultural production
Midpen's Unique Mission in the Coastside Protection Area
To acquire and preserve in perpetuity open space land and agricultural land of regional significance, protect and restore the natural environment, preserve rural character, encourage viable agricultural use of land resources, and provide opportunities for ecologically sensitive public enjoyment and education.
In January 2004, Midpen's board of directors approved a memorandum of understanding in which we agreed to consult with Farm Bureau on new land purchases and public access projects to avoid adverse impacts to adjacent agricultural operations.
Prior to Midpen’s boundaries expanding to include the San Mateo County coast in 2004, the San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) required that Midpen and the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District (LHPUSD) enter into an agreement.
The resulting 20-year agreement assured that when Midpen, a tax-exempt public agency, protected open space land within LHPUSD’s jurisdiction, it would provide LHPUSD with property tax compensation payments to keep their funding whole.
Under the agreement, Midpen and LHPUSD are working cooperatively to further the mission of both agencies so as to avoid adverse fiscal impacts to the rural school district related to the purchase and preservation of open space lands and to include environmental education programs within the school’s curriculum that supports Midpen’s goals related to public nature education.
The original agreement expired in March 2024, and LHPUSD and Midpen negotiated an amended agreement to extend the property tax reimbursements for an additional 15 years, with all other relevant terms remaining the same. The amended agreement expires in 2039, at which time Midpen and LHPUSD will negotiate a subsequent agreement.
In March of 2004, Midpen entered into an agreement with San Mateo County regarding fire services to meet the following goals:
- Fire Service Fee – For lands purchased in the County’s and Midpen's boundaries not covered by Cal Fire’s state responsibility area, and within the Coastside Protection Area, Midpen will pay a service fee to offset tax revenues received by the County. These fees will increase annually by 2%.
- County will provide Fire and Medical Services on Midpen lands within the Coastside Protection Area.
- Midpen and the County have entered into a Mutual Aid Agreement.
- Midpen will consult with the County on its vegetation management program.
- Midpen will consult with the County on installation of additional water resources for fire suppression.
This agreement was renewed in March 2019.
To date, more than $16 million in Measure AA funding has been invested in Coastside open space and agriculture projects. These include land preservation, habitat restoration, watershed protection, conservation grazing and ecologically sensitive public access projects at Purisima Creek Redwoods, La Honda Creek, Miramontes Ridge, Tunitas Creek and Cloverdale Ranch preserves.
Conservation Grazing and Agriculture
Midpen’s Conservation Grazing Program is a collaboration with small-scale, local ranchers accomplishing multiple goals that align with our coastal mission:
- Maintain and restore native grasslands and their unique biodiversity
- Manage vegetation to reduce wildland fire risk
- Support agriculture on the San Mateo County Coast
There are also some row crops within Midpen's coastal-area preserves, including 7 acres of cut flowers in Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, 33 acres of produce in Miramontes Ridge Preserve and a historic chestnut orchard and Christmas tree farm in Skyline Ridge Preserve. Midpen's agricultural policy, which was updated in 2023 through a public process, defines Midpen's role in agriculture on the San Mateo County coast in alignment with our mission.