Working for Waddle Ranch | SierraSun.com

Working for Waddle Ranch

Sierra Countis and Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

What started as a casual conversation has turned into a $2 million deal to help the Truckee Donner Land Trust acquire and preserve nearly 1,500 acres in Martis Valley.

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District contributed $2 million to the land trust Tuesday ” adding to a recent $2 million state grant from the Sierra Nevada Cascade Conservation Grant program ” to assist with the purchase of the Waddle Ranch property.

But the land trust still has work to do by the end of 2007 in order to seal the purchase of the ranch, said Perry Norris, executive director of the land trust.

“The property is under contract and as long as we perform on that contract, no one else can purchase that property from underneath us,” Norris said.

The undeveloped parcel, located along Highway 267 on the eastern edge of Martis Valley, is of interest to the airport board because of its alignment to the existing airport runway, said Dave Gotschall, airport general manager.

“If we didn’t take this property out of play, it would be developed,” Gotschall said.

The land trust is negotiating with the Pritzker family of the Hyatt hotel chain on

Waddle Ranch, Norris said. Norris said he cannot disclose the price of the land, but referred to the price as “far and away the most expensive” the land trust has dealt with to date.

In the meantime, the land trust will continue applying for state grant funds. The passage of Proposition 84, which provides state bond money for natural resources and protection, gives the land trust a better shot at the deal, provided the property is managed and has public access, Norris said.

If the Waddle Ranch purchase goes through, the airport will hold the land title, Gottschall said, and the airport district will manage the property.

“Our financial investment exceeds $2 million,” Gottschall said. “The airport has an obligation in perpetuity that, over time, will eclipse the original investment.”

A conservation easement will be held on the property by the land trust. While there are no official plans yet, Norris said the land trust will assume responsibility for the construction and maintenance of trails in Waddle Ranch to assure accessibility to the public.

The land trust-airport acquisition of Waddle Ranch will be a joint effort with the Trust for Public Lands. Having the Trust for Public Lands on board to raise money is a big help for the land trust, Norris said.