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On January 5, 1978 a small group of people gave birth to our little nonprofit. It was the year after the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) was formed and the same year Save Our Shores came into being. It was also the year Santa Cruz County passed Measure J, its growth management program. (Read this piece on the history of Measure J and the times that led to it.)

All this was done in response to growing threats to the natural world all around us. Oil drilling threatened our coastline and explosive growth came to sleepy Santa Cruz with the building of UCSC the decade before.

Long-time Board member John Gilchrist was part of the small group of people who started the Land Trust (along with Anna Jean Cummings, Rick Jahn, Gary Patton, John Brissenden, Rock Pfotenhauer, and Ziggy Rendler-Bregman). “All of us knew,” he says, “that zoning and county plans were temporary – that they can be changed by a majority of the Board. We felt we needed a mechanism to provide permanent protection.” (Read an interview with John done on our 30th Anniversary.)

We’ve been providing that permanent protection for 40 years. It’s a long list: Antonelli Pond, Byrne-Milliron Forest, Glenwood Preserve, Watsonville Slough Farm, Star Creek, San Vicente Redwoods, Sandhills habitat, farmland in the Pajaro Valley, land for a wildlife tunnel, the Pajaro Hills…

In 2015, we changed our mission statement to include not just land protection and stewardship, but also connecting people to the land. Since that change, we have launched projects to build almost 50 miles of trails on three properties (San Vicente Redwoods, Watsonville Slough Farm, and Glenwood Preserve) and to provide matching funds to jump start the construction of the Rail Trail that connects 92 parks.

It’s been an amazing 40 years – and we look forward to the next 40, and beyond. Land protection is forever.

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Stephen Slade is the Executive Director at Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. He has more than 40 years non-profit experience in fundraising, communications, and management – and a deep passion for the lands that make Santa Cruz special. Find out more about Stephen Slade...

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