| Environmentalists work pays off for Marks Ranch
Two years of determined effort by the Citizens to Save Marks Ranch and by LandWatch
Monterey County to prevent development of historic Marks Ranch on the Monterey-Salinas
Highway have succeeded. The owner of the property, St. Johns College, has
terminated the 28-year option they had with Las Palmas developers, Michael Fletcher,
Sr. and James Fletcher, to subdivide the oak-studded Marks Ranch property. The
Fletchers are noted for building on tree-stripped terraces.
As reported in The Ventana in 2001 (Vol. 40, No. 3), the Marks Ranch property
was in danger of intense development. Herman Marks had willed his homestead to
St. Johns College for a college and open space. As such, it was zoned public/quasi-public.
Instead St. Johns decided to sell the property to the developers of the
neighboring Las Palmas subdivision. The Fletchers then attempted to have the ranch
re-zoned to residential.
Citizens to Save Marks Ranch galvanized public support against the rezoning. Chapter
member Robin Way provided photo panoramas of the property which showed the oak
woodland habitat and adjacent Toro Park (to which Herman Marks had deeded 5,000
acres). Using the photos, organizers attended meetings and gathered over 3,600
protest signatures which were presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
Reporters covered the story in the local papers.
Ventana Chapter member Harriet Mittledorf wrote a powerful article for the Monterey
Herald censuring the violation of Herman Marks will with its environmental
intent. Her commentary generated indignant letters to the editor. Two supervisors
publicly stated that they would never vote to rezone Marks Ranch. Even so, for
two years there was no response from St. Johns College.
Finally on May 8, 2003, a Memorandum of Termination of Option to Purchase
Agreement and Mutual Release between St. Johns College and the Fletchers
was recorded with the Monterey County Recorder. This ends the Fletchers
attempt to pursue a massive residential development on beautiful Marks Ranch.
Now the hard work begins to fund the purchase of the property. The Big Sur Land
Trust and Monterey County are working to add Marks Ranch to Toro Park.