Escrow closed May 16 on the property along Conference Drive and the Felton Faire shopping center, and Mount Hermon announced the purchase Friday, May 18.
“Virtually everybody we’ve talked to are very excited about this, including people outside the community, especially given the uses we have in mind,” said Alden Johanson, acting director of Mount Hermon, a Christian conference center and community.
Johanson was reluctant to speak about those possible land uses, however, saying the conference center’s staff was still forming plans.
“We don’t expect to be doing any significant builds on the property,” Johanson said. “Nothing comparable to the affordable housing (project).”
He said the land would be used for recreational purposes and would be kept mostly green and scenic.
Mount Hermon must amend its master plan to include the 14.8-acre meadow that extends the 440-acre community’s boundaries across East Zayante Road to the edge of the Felton Faire shopping center.
The organization hopes to submit plans to the county by the end of the year.
The meadow includes several acres of relatively flat ground — something of which Mount Hermon had very little.
“There are some really good ideas I think the public will be comfortable with,” Johanson said.
Steve Homan, a Bonny Doon resident and a retired environmental health specialist who has taken a keen interest in the meadow, said he was pleased with the purchase.
“I am sure that the Mount Hermon Association will be excellent stewards of this special and historic meadow, its springs, its micro-wetlands, and its protected oak woodland area,” Homan said.
Homan said maps from the mid-1800s showed the meadow as a gateway to the Zayante Rancho and a steam engine that might have powered a sawmill.
“One can envision that indigenous Americans likely used the meadow, the springs and the fisheries of Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River to their advantage,” he said. “It is a special place.”
The purchase ends the involvement of South County Housing Corp. and Santa Cruz County with the property.
The county had slated the meadow for low-income housing in 2005 and wound up sinking $2.1 million into loans and settlements to satisfy contractual agreements with South County. The company bought the property in 2006 to build the low-income housing.
Public pressure related to money the county spent before the completion of environmental studies derailed the project, and it was finally canceled in March, when county supervisors agreed to let South County sell the property for less than it owed.
South County officials then approached Mount Hermon leaders about buying the meadow.
Mount Hermon has expanded in the past decade with the acquisition of Whisper Canyon near Paso Robles in 2003 and Kidder Creek near the Oregon border in 2004.
The Felton meadow is the first large expansion of its grounds in recent years.
Leaders have not said whether the meadow would be open to the community.
“Public usage may be considered but has not yet been determined,” Johanson said.
The Press-Banner was unable to determine the purchase price this week, because the pertinent documents had not yet been processed by the county.